Are motorcycles posing "THE MOST SERIOUS THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH" in Kathmandu city ?

By: Arun Karki / Sunil Dhungana      Published on: 21st Nov 2014


Motorcycles widely used transport means in the city

Motor vehicles are a major source of air pollution worldwide. The problem is not different in the capital city Kathmandu where motorcycles represent a large part of the vehicle fleet every day. According to the office of Metropolitan Traffic Police, Kathmandu, the average number of on-road motorcycles per day in city used to be approximately 195 thousand in 2010. The traffic office claims this number has almost doubled in four years and reached 360 thousand in 2014.


Pollution putalisadak





Kathmandu with highest traffic among cities in Nepal

By 2014, the average number of on-road vehicles per day in Kathmandu city is more than twice than other busiest cities of Nepal such as Birgunj, Bhairahawa, Biratnagar and Pokhara. The vehicualr air poulltion is comparitively higer in the capital city.





Registered two-wheelers five times higher

There has been dramatic increase in the number of vehicles in Bagmati zone over the past five years compared to last decade. The office of traffic police considers the roads of Kathmandu city are mostly occupied by the vehicles registered for Bagmati zone. The records from the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) suggest  the number of four wheelers in Bagmati zone is increasing by 3-5 percent annually whereas the rate is 10-15 percent in case of motorcycles. However, the annual vehicle registration records of Bagmati zone over the past decade reveal that motorcycles are five times higher in numbers as compared to four wheelers. 





Unseen threat of motorcycles deteriorating air quality 

Motor vehicles cause 50 to 90 percent of local air pollution, depending upon the pollutant according to sources. Motorcycles collectively emit 16 times more hydrocarbons, three times more carbon monoxide and excessively high amount of other air pollutants compared to cars, passenger buses, pickup trucks and other four wheelers according to an international study. Some hydrocarbons have been linked to global warming, while others are suspected of being carcinogenic. Air pollutants emitted from on-road vehicles are believed to cause cancer and contribute to such problems like; asthma, heart disease, birth defects and eye irritation.


Motorcycles extract much more energy from fuel than cars do which creates much greater amounts of smog forming chemicals. Additionally because motorcycles are smaller they often do not carry technologies to reduce emissions such as catalytic converters which convert carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides into carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water. While motorcycles are much more fuel-efficient than cars and emit less CO2, because they are unable to carry heavy equipment like catalytic converters, they release large amounts of nitrogen oxides which results in the release of ten times more air pollution per kilometer than an average car. Consequently, there could be an adverse proliferating impact on public health where up to 50 thousand motorcycles in an average are being added in the city roads every year.



Capital city culminates with air pollution limit

Particulate Matter (PM) are small fine particles of foreign substances. Long-term exposure to PM  shows decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis, premature deaths, and heart attacks. By 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed Kathmandu city the most polluted city in Asia. WHO scientists estimate 537,000 people in Southeast Asia die prematurely each year due to air pollution. In terms of air quality, World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Kathmandu city as one of the vulnerable cities among South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations.




The level of PM10 in the air of Kathmandu is 120 microgram per square meter. As per the standard of the World Health Organization, the level of PM10 should be 20 microgram per square meter. The level of PM10 is higher than the official standard in most of the places of Kathmandu valley. According to most recent data from Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) the situation of air quality of the city is dwindling in which Putalisadak is recorded the high PM 233 (Average).






10,000 people dying each year due to respiratory issues in city

The report published last year by Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) indicates more than one hundred thousand people have suffered by respiratory problems in Kathmandu city. Government figures estimate nearly ten thousand people die every year those suffered from respiratory issues. It implies there could be nine possible deaths in every hundred persons those suffering from such diseases. Moreover, ten thousand people in an average are in a high risk of dying due to respiratory problems with over 3.5 million people living in the city.




However, Nepalese government and other stakeholders might be unaware about the risk of air pollution especially caused by motorcycles in the city which is putting city dwellers’ health in danger.