06/06/2012, 00.00
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Nepal, polluted home of garbage-strewn Mount Everest

by Kalpit Parajuli
A study by Yale University places Nepal near the top of the world's most-polluted country list. In Kathmandu, 70 per cent of residents do not have access to clean water. More than half of residents suffer from respiratory and skin diseases.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - With very poor air quality in its cities, rivers that are open sewers and the Everest turned into a dump, Nepal is one of the most polluted countries in the world, this according to the Environment Performance Index (EPI) elaborated by US-based Yale University and Columbia University  and the International Science Information Network. The EPI looks pollution levels as a  measure of government environmental policy.

Released on World Environment Day, this year's results show that in Nepal, along with China, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, had the greatest impact on people's health.

For ordinary Nepalis, the main problem are not industrial emissions, but rapid deforestation and urbanisation, which are making life unbearable in the country's big cities.

In Kathmandu, about 70 per cent of residents do not have access to clean water. More than 50 per cent of water supplies are contaminated because of poor drainage management.

Car emissions have reduced air quality so much that breathing is difficult.

Overall, because of poor water and air quality, more than half of the capital's residents suffer from respiratory conditions and skin allergies.

The same is true in the country's other main cities: Biratnagar (Terai, southern Nepal), Patan (Lalitpur, central Nepal), Pokhara (Gandaki, western Nepal) and Birganj (Narayani, southern Nepal).

Pollution has not spared the Himalaya as well. Thousands of climbers come to Nepal's main tourist attraction, Mount Everest. In order to make the mountain more accessible, the authorities have not only lowered the technical and physical standards for the climb but also diluted environmental protection rules. Thus, the path to the roof of the world has become a dump.

Asian Trekking managing director Dawa Steven Sherpa together with Apa Sherpa, who holds the world record (21 times) for scaling Mount Everest, launched Eco-Everest Expeditions in 2008 to clean up the mountain.

Every year, dozens of seasoned climbers and local residents take part in garbage collection expeditions.

The expeditions also promote environmentally friendly equipment, like parabolic solar cookers, solar energy for lighting and multi-purpose oxygen canisters.

Between 2008 and 2011, 13 tonnes of non-biodegradable garbage were removed.

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