What can Nepal learn from the cleanest country in the world?
Denmark's achievement of being ranked as the cleanest country in the world with an EPI value of 82.5 serves as a model for other nations, including Nepal, to strive towards high levels of environmental cleanliness.
What can Nepal learn from the cleanest country in the world?
Denmark, a small Scandinavian country, has been ranked as the cleanest country in the world with an EPI value of 82.5. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a tool used to measure a country's environmental performance, taking into account factors such as air and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity. This achievement by Denmark should be celebrated, as it shows that countries can achieve high levels of environmental sustainability. But, the question remains: what can Nepal do to achieve a similar level of environmental cleanliness?
Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia, between China and India. It is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. However, despite its natural beauty, Nepal faces several environmental challenges, including deforestation, air pollution, and water pollution. To improve its environmental performance and reach a level similar to Denmark, Nepal must take several actions.
One of the first steps Nepal can take to improve its environmental performance is to reduce deforestation. Deforestation is a major problem in Nepal, with about 1.5% of the country's forests disappearing each year. This loss of forest cover contributes to climate change and leads to soil erosion, landslides, and desertification. To tackle this issue, Nepal has implemented policies that promote sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation, agroforestry, and community-based forestry. Community-based (while being owned by the community) forestry program is one of the exemplary and successful programs in Nepal.
Another major problem that Nepal faces is air pollution. The country's capital, Kathmandu, is one of the most polluted cities in the world. This is due to several factors, including vehicle emissions, industrial activities, and recurrent construction works. To address this issue, Nepal can invest in clean energy alternatives, such as solar and wind power, and encourage the use of electric vehicles while limiting the construction works focussing on quality. Performing construction work during the less busy time of the day can help prevent the potential risk possessed by dust particles during the day. While encouraging electric vehicle use, subsidy in the pricing of the vehicle and charging ports being accessible throughout the country is critical as well. Additionally, Nepal can implement policies that reduce the use of traditional biomass fuels for cooking and heating, as these contribute significantly to air pollution.
Innovation and Sustainability
Prioritization of Innovative solutions to tackle environmental pollution, and prioritization of greener solutions to the technologies Nepal is yet to implement are detrimental to the environment of the country. Open collaboration among universities and multi-sectoral partnerships to effectively tackle environmental crises can not only generate creative solutions but can generate employment opportunities and help to prevent some of the brain drains we are seeing through entrepreneurship, circular economy ideations, and prototypes. For example, Solid waste management in urban and sub-urban regions of Nepal is a challenging and neglected public health issue mainly by the citizens. Among various factors lack of proper waste management techniques at the household level and a lack of awareness about the impacts of improper waste management the problem further exacerbates during the early monsoon and rainy season. While the problem of organic waste management is growing in the cities; farmers have been at a great loss due to expensive feed costs for their animals and fertilizer costs for their plants. Nepal annually imports feed ingredients of more than 16 billion rupees. As a part of an initiative to solve all these problems in Nepalese society, Black Soldier Fly can be chosen as a solution. With Black Soldier Fly technology, we can convert huge quantities of organic waste into protein ingredients for animal feed and high-quality fertilizer for field applications merely in a matter of 10 days. It can be taken as an example of circular economy and sustainability.
Water pollution is another environmental challenge that Nepal must address. The country's rivers and lakes are heavily polluted due to industrial activities, agricultural runoff, and inadequate wastewater treatment. To tackle this issue, Nepal can implement policies that promote sustainable agriculture practices, such as reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, Nepal can invest in wastewater treatment facilities and enforce stricter regulations on industries to reduce their environmental impact.
While Nepal has made some progress in improving its environmental performance, there are still several challenges that it must overcome. One of the biggest obstacles to achieving environmental cleanliness in Nepal is poverty. Many people in Nepal still rely on traditional biomass fuels for cooking and heating, as they cannot afford cleaner alternatives. Additionally, Nepal's economy is heavily reliant on agriculture and tourism, which can contribute to environmental degradation if not managed sustainably.
Another challenge is weak governance and enforcement of environmental regulations. Nepal has many environmental laws and policies in place, but enforcement is often weak due to corruption and a lack of resources. To overcome this challenge, Nepal must invest in capacity building and strengthening its institutions to enforce environmental regulations better.
Air Pollution and Health
Air pollution is a global health issue that affects millions of people every day. It has severe health implications for children, adults, and vulnerable populations. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that nine out of ten people worldwide are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed safe limits. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, In Nepal, air pollution leads to 42,100 deaths every year, out of which 19% are in under five children and about 27% in adults above 70 years of age. It reduces the life expectancy of an average Nepali by 4.1 years. The data on the major causes of death in Nepal also shows that air pollution is a major contributor to the top five causes of death, namely COPD(66%), ischemic heart disease (34%), stroke (37%), Lower respiratory infection (47%) and neonatal deaths (22%).
Pollutants like PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 microns or approximately 20 times smaller than a human hair) are known to be able to reach deep into the lungs when breathed in and are even able to infiltrate the bloodstream through the alveoli of the lungs. As a result, it is able to impact every organ and system within the human body.
Children are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution than adults because their bodies are still developing. Exposure to air pollution at an early age can have severe health implications, such as stunted lung growth, asthma, and other respiratory problems. In 2016, the WHO reported that air pollution caused 543,000 deaths in children under the age of five worldwide. Moreover, air pollution can lead to cognitive impairment, affecting their memory and attention span.
In the United States alone, approximately 4 million children are affected by asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and causes difficulty in breathing. Air pollution is one of the leading causes of asthma, and children living in urban areas with higher levels of pollution are at an increased risk of developing the disease. Studies have also shown that children exposed to higher levels of pollution have a lower IQ than children who are not exposed to high levels of pollution. While in Nepal we lack accurate data on how it has impacted children particularly to rely upon regarding the major cause of respiratory disease being air pollution but from the figures above we can definitely assume how potentially terrible it is to live in the world's most polluted city based on the air quality index, sadly.
Air pollution affects adults in many ways. It can cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and stroke. In 2016, the WHO reported that air pollution caused 4.2 million deaths worldwide, with adults over the age of 50 being the most affected. Air pollution can also lead to the development of lung cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
Vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, the elderly, and people with pre-existing health conditions are at a higher risk of being affected by air pollution. Pregnant women who are exposed to air pollution are at a higher risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and other complications. Elderly people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution are at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and other respiratory problems.
The health implications of air pollution are not just limited to a few cases. They are a global issue that needs immediate attention. According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for 7 million premature deaths each year worldwide. In 2019, air pollution was responsible for 476,000 premature deaths in India, 385,000 in China, and 170,000 in the United States.
Denmark's Efforts to Reduce Air Pollution
Denmark is a country that has been successful in reducing air pollution levels over the past few decades. Denmark has implemented several policies and initiatives to reduce air pollution levels. One of the key strategies is promoting clean energy. The country has set a target to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. Denmark has also invested in wind power, which accounts for more than 40% of the country's electricity production.
The government has also encouraged the use of public transportation and cycling. Denmark has one of the highest rates of cycling in the world, with more than 50% of its population using a bike to commute. This has reduced the number of cars on the road, which has led to a reduction in air pollution levels.
Denmark has implemented various policy implications to reduce air pollution levels. The government has set strict emissions standards for vehicles, which has led to a reduction in the number of polluting cars on the road. Denmark has also implemented a congestion charge in Copenhagen, which charges motorists for driving in the city center during peak hours. This has led to a reduction in traffic congestion and air pollution levels.
The government has also implemented a tax on energy consumption, which encourages individuals and businesses to use energy-efficient appliances and equipment. This has led to a reduction in energy consumption and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.
Respiratory Disease Rates in Denmark
The efforts made by Denmark to reduce air pollution levels have had a positive impact on the health of its population. According to a report by the European Environment Agency, Denmark has the lowest number of premature deaths caused by air pollution in Europe. The report stated that there were 5,100 premature deaths due to air pollution in Denmark in 2018, compared to 379,000 in the European Union as a whole.
The report also highlighted a decrease in respiratory disease rates in Denmark. The number of hospital admissions due to respiratory diseases has decreased by 20% since 2010. The report attributed this decrease to the reduction in air pollution levels.
Denmark's efforts to reduce air pollution levels have been successful, and the country has become a leader in promoting clean energy and sustainable transportation. The government's policies and initiatives have led to a reduction in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and respiratory disease rates. The data suggests that the measures taken by Denmark have had a positive impact on the health of its population. Other countries can learn from Denmark's policies and initiatives to tackle the issue of air pollution and promote sustainable development.
Nepal, like many other developing countries, faces significant environmental challenges. The country has made some progress in addressing these challenges, but much more needs to be done. Here are some policy recommendations for Nepal's environmental policy and implementation:
Strengthen environmental governance and institutional capacity: Nepal needs to strengthen the capacity of its environmental institutions to effectively implement policies and regulations. This includes improving the coordination between different government agencies, as well as increasing funding for environmental protection programs.
- Increase public participation and awareness: There is a need to increase public participation in environmental decision-making processes. This can be achieved by involving the public in the design and implementation of environmental policies, as well as by increasing public awareness of environmental issues through education and awareness campaigns.
- Promote sustainable tourism: Tourism is an important sector of Nepal's economy, but it also has a significant impact on the environment. To promote sustainable tourism, Nepal should encourage tourism operators to adopt sustainable practices and promote eco-tourism. Additionally, the government can establish regulations and incentives that encourage sustainable tourism practices.
- Reduce deforestation and promote reforestation: Deforestation is a major environmental challenge in Nepal. The government needs to implement policies and regulations that promote sustainable forest management practices, including reforestation, agroforestry, and community-based forestry. Additionally, the government should provide incentives for communities to participate in reforestation efforts.
- Promote clean energy alternatives: Nepal needs to promote the use of clean energy alternatives, such as solar and wind power, to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The government can provide incentives for households and businesses to adopt clean energy alternatives, and invest in developing renewable energy infrastructure.
- Strengthen environmental regulations and enforcement: Nepal needs to strengthen its environmental regulations and enforcement mechanisms. The government should establish stricter regulations on industries that contribute to environmental pollution, and increase penalties for non-compliance. Additionally, the government should increase funding for environmental monitoring and enforcement.
To combat the severe health issue of air pollution, a multisectoral approach involving public health experts, educators, and policy-makers is necessary. The data suggests that air pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths each year worldwide, and it affects children, adults, and vulnerable populations. Immediate action is required to reduce air pollution levels, promote clean energy, and use public transportation. Creating awareness and educating people about the dangers of air pollution is also critical to ensure a healthier future for all.
Denmark's success in achieving high levels of environmental cleanliness can serve as a model for other countries, including Nepal. To improve its environmental performance, Nepal must take several actions, such as reducing deforestation, tackling air and water pollution, promoting sustainable agriculture and tourism practices, and investing in clean energy alternatives. Despite challenges such as poverty and weak governance, Nepal has the potential to achieve environmental sustainability, which can benefit its people and the planet as a whole.
Let's leave the world better than we got for the coming new buds of generations, also yet-to-come ones. It's a scary environmentally degraded place to live with all the air pollution and weekly respiratory diseases going on, especially in vulnerable populations including the elderly, pregnant, and children).
A multisectoral training approach involving environmental experts, engineers, public health experts, educators, and policy-makers can help combat air pollution and other environmental issues. By entering into an entrepreneurial mindset and making the necessary policy implications to meet the need of the upcoming days, Nepal can make progress toward achieving environmental sustainability while also promoting economic development and social welfare. It is crucial to prioritize the health and well-being of the population by ensuring clean air, water, and a healthy environment.
The urgency to deal with the issue at National Level is as important as grabbing the attention of the growing economies surrounding us. Pollution is cross-border and transboundary. A dialogue, research, and advocacy about how the air pollutants from India and China which blooming industrial revolutionizing countries of South Asia affecting landlocked countries like Nepal. It thought-provoking. I will level it for the next article and for your comments.