May 10, 2017

Air pollution threatens Lumbini Featured

As the world celebrates the holy full moon day of Vesak, which marks the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Lord Buddha, environmentalists have highlighted serious threats faced by Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

The historic site in South west Nepal is facing a serious threat from air pollution, according to recent research.

Highly polluted
Recent data collected from air quality monitoring stations in five places across the country show Lumbini is highly polluted.

For the month of January, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in Lumbini, in southwest Nepal, was measured at 173.035 micrograms per cubic metre.

The reading for the neighbouring town of Chitwan was 113.32 and the capital, Kathmandu, which is known for its high pollution levels, was at 109.82.

The World Health Organization (WHO) safe limit for the pollutant is 25 micrograms per cubic metre and the Nepal government has set the national standard at 40.

Another study conducted by the IUCN and UNESCO found that the pollution had begun to threaten the Lumbini World Heritage site.

The warnings have come amid expanding industrialisation near the sacred site.

A government body had designated 15km aerial distance from the north east and west boundary of the historic site as the Lumbini Protected Zone.

Adjoining the LPZ is an expanding industrial corridor that has cement, steel, paper and noodle factories and brick kilns.

Several of these factories are well within the LPZ and environmentalists say that is in clear violation of the government regulation.

Health hazards
Speaking to the BBC, tourists and monks visiting the site have said they felt uneasy while breathing in the air.

The site has also seen increased numbers of monks meditating with their face masks on.

Studies have also shown that in the past 10 years the number of people with lung related diseases has gone up and the dust has also led to a huge increase in skin-related diseases.

More polluted than Kathmandu
Government officials are aware of the problem.

"Based on recent data, we know that Lumbini is more polluted than Kathmandu," s Shankar Prasad Poudel, chief of the air pollution measurement section at the environment department has told the BBC.

"We plan to detect the sources of the pollution using a drone in the near future and hopefully this will help minimise the problem."

(Excerpts : BBC)