Nepal shuts schools as air pollution hits alarming levels

Nepal shuts schools as air pollution hits alarming levels

The air quality of Kathmandu, Nepal, has reached hazardous levels on March 27, 2021, with the AQI hitting 421, according to the Real-Time Air Quality Index. The education ministry said about eight million students have been affected as schools were shut amid the country's worst air pollution since records began in 2016.

Ngamindra Dahal, a climate scientist, explained that the prevailing drought in the absence of winds had resulted in the accumulation of smog. Forest fires also contributed to the poor air quality-- as of March 30, government agencies reported as many as 2 713 fires across the country.

Dahal added that an unusually dry winter helped spread the fire. In 2020, only 188 areas had reported forest fires. Local air pollution, along with westerly winds from South and Southwest India, also exacerbated the conditions.

There was also a partial impact from westerly winds, along with local winds in the country. Heavy rainfall will not occur if the systems are not active.

Due to an AQI of 421, which was at hazardous levels and the highest since the government began keeping records in 2016, Nepal has ordered schools to close for four days, affecting eight million students.

"We need a long-term strategy to combat the situation, if we do not have that strategy we need to wait and accept the air pollution as a new normal situation till a good rainfall," said Dahal.

"I would like to call this situation the new normal. The pattern repeats every two to three years. Winters should end in February and pre-monsoon should start by March. But that is not happening."

Featured image credit: Rise Media Network/YouTube


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