March 31, 2000
Located in the shadow of the Himalayas, Kathmandu is a 2,500 year-old city with a rich history. Unfortunately, breathing the air in Kathmandu can be hazardous to your health.
The Kathmandu valley traps air pollutants from motor vehicles and factories. The city's population has tripled in the past 20 years and air quality has deteriorated. The World Bank estimates that air pollution causes people in Kathmandu more than $4 million worth of health problems every year.
Lawyers with Pro Public, a Kathmandu-based public interest law firm, are working to clear the air. Drawing on lessons from the ELAW network, Pro Public filed suit calling on the Ministry of Transportation and the Nepal Oil Corporation to protect Kathmandu's air. Nepal's 1996 Environmental Protection Act requires the government to set air, water and noise pollution standards. So far, the government has failed to act. Pro Public has taken the case to the Supreme Court.
Through the ELAW network, Pro Public received scientific reports chronicling the benefits of eliminating lead from gasoline; motor vehicle and industrial emission standards from the U.S., Europe, India and the Philippines; successful strategies for improving air quality applied in other Asian cities; and clean air decisions from the Supreme Court of India.
Pro Public is making good progress. Nepal Oil is now selling unleaded gasoline throughout the country and has cut the sulfur content of its diesel fuel in half. In December of 1999, Nepal's government took a major, positive step: It banned the import of motor vehicles that do not comply with European Union emission standards. These steps will help Kathmandu's residents breathe again. With the ELAW network's help, Pro Public is working for a comprehensive solution that will include the complete elimination of leaded gasoline and emission standards for Kathmandu's major polluting industries.
For more information about this ELAW Impact, please contact: Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public), P.O. Box 14307, Gautan Budha Marg, Anam Nagar, Kathmandu, Nepal.