Review Nepal News

Air Pollution Problem Could Disrupt Nepal’s Tourism Industry

BY SLOK GYAWALI
  Kathmandu, Nepal      February 09 2017

Photo by keso s, Flickr Tourists, expecting clear skies and crisp views, are often disappointed by hazy conditions in Nepal: Photo by keso s, Flickr

Consistent haze is interfering with the stunning views many trekkers expect, raising concern among some industry professionals
 
South Asia’s notorius “atmospheric brown cloud” could impact Nepal’s appeal as a tourist destination. Visitors are voicing their concern about the three-kilometer-thick toxic cloud that sits over much of the region, including large swaths of Nepal, and interferes with their experience of a country promoted as a trekker’s paradise.
 
“I am asthmatic so I find the pollution exhausting,” Jacob Beehan, a German tourist, tells me over coffee in Kathmandu’s Thamel area. But what has been particularly disturbing for me has been the how the pollution has spoiled some of the views. It’s really bad in this city.”
 
Tourism is a major source of revenue for Nepal. In 2014, the country welcomed 790,118 tourists, and earned roughly $780 million, or 4.3 percent of the GDP in the process,. (The numbers dropped by more than 44 percent in 2015 due to the devastating earthquake and a blockade at its borders with India, Nepal’s neighbour and largest source of tourists.) A 2014 report by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation estimates that every six tourists create one job in Nepal.
 
A growing number of tourists have been sharing their disappointment about the air pollution and haze on prominant travel sites like Lonely Planet in recent years. “My family and I visited Nepal for three weeks from late March to mid-April [2013]. I would never go back at this time again as the visibility was TERRIBLE! We were in Kathmandu, Nargokot, Baktipur, Pokhara, Sarangot, and the Seti River area. We got one hazy glimpse of a snow topped mountain in Pokhara on one afternoon. We NEVER saw the mountains again,” vents a disappointed traveller under the username Kazmom on the Lonely Planet website.
 
The atmospheric brown cloud (ABC) is composed primarily of man-made pollutants, including toxic ash, black carbon, sulphate, nitrates, and aerosols, and is a global phenomenon. The densely populated Indo-Gangetic plain — a fertile plain that extends through parts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and southern Nepal —  however, is one of the five ABC regional hot spots identified by the United Nations Environment Programme, meaning the pollution is worse and blocks a higher percentage of sunlight. Across the plain, forest fires combine with smoke from slash and burn agriculture, emissions from automobile vehicles, and industrial and indoor pollution to add to the haze. This concentration of aerosols is then distributed across Nepal’s hills and mountains by the winter westerlies, prevailing winds.
 
“I am asthmatic so I find the pollution exhausting,” Jacob Beehan, a German tourist, tells me over coffee in Kathmandu’s Thamel area. But what has been particularly disturbing for me has been the how the pollution has spoiled some of the views. It’s really bad in this city.”
 
Tourism is a major source of revenue for Nepal. In 2014, the country welcomed 790,118 tourists, and earned roughly $780 million, or 4.3 percent of the GDP in the process,. (The numbers dropped by more than 44 percent in 2015 due to the devastating earthquake and a blockade at its borders with India, Nepal’s neighbour and largest source of tourists.) A 2014 report by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation estimates that every six tourists create one job in Nepal.
 
A growing number of tourists have been sharing their disappointment about the air pollution and haze on prominant travel sites like Lonely Planet in recent years. “My family and I visited Nepal for three weeks from late March to mid-April [2013]. I would never go back at this time again as the visibility was TERRIBLE! We were in Kathmandu, Nargokot, Baktipur, Pokhara, Sarangot, and the Seti River area. We got one hazy glimpse of a snow topped mountain in Pokhara on one afternoon. We NEVER saw the mountains again,” vents a disappointed traveller under the username Kazmom on the Lonely Planet website.
 
The atmospheric brown cloud (ABC) is composed primarily of man-made pollutants, including toxic ash, black carbon, sulphate, nitrates, and aerosols, and is a global phenomenon. The densely populated Indo-Gangetic plain — a fertile plain that extends through parts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and southern Nepal —  however, is one of the five ABC regional hot spots identified by the United Nations Environment Programme, meaning the pollution is worse and blocks a higher percentage of sunlight. Across the plain, forest fires combine with smoke from slash and burn agriculture, emissions from automobile vehicles, and industrial and indoor pollution to add to the haze. This concentration of aerosols is then distributed across Nepal’s hills and mountains by the winter westerlies, prevailing winds.
 
This story was supported by the ICIMOD Atmosphere Initiative Story Grant Programme.
 
The article orginally published in Earth Island Journal