Growing urbanization in the city, population growth, unhampered and poorly planned land development and insufficient coordination among government agencies as major causes of environmental deterioration as stated in the report presented by Kathmandu Valley Environmental Outlook released 25 January 2007 during the 10th Governing Council Meeting and Silver Jubilee of the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP). The main problem of KTM valley is the rapid urban growth, haphazard development, lack of access, traffic congestion, and deficiency of infrastructure and general lack of planning. The environment problem in Kathmandu valley is seen in all physical landscape and urban living: Land, water, air, noise. These problems are not only mutually exclusive but also combine together to give even worst effect on negative impact on environment and quality of life.
Environmental challenges and their causes in KTM valley and Nepal as a whole:
Solid waste and wastewater management are mentioned as two of the most critical environmental problems facing the Valley. "Managing solid waste and wastewater in Kathmandu has become a daunting task as urban areas have grown haphazardly without provisions or plans for appropriate infrastructure and services in these sectors," the by Kathmandu Valley Environmental Outlook report states. Other environmental problems highlighted include poor air quality and traffic management, unplanned settlement, degradation of water resources, and weak disaster preparedness. The environmental problem can be listed as below
: Land Pollution:
The main reason for the Land pollution in the KTM valley is due to the lack of solid waste management. The land pollution can be seen in the valley from the evident in the heaps of uncollected solid waste, illegal dump sites, open landfills, and exposed human and animal excreta in the streets. The most common sight in the KTM valley is the open latrines. Even though some of the business groups have tried to dispose their wastage through organized group the absence of proper landfill facilities, the debris has always created a problem for the proper disposal of wastes and which are ultimately end up on land or in water sources like river and ponds.
Water Pollution:
Surface water in KTM valley is severely polluted by the industrial effluence, waste dumping and the discharge of untreated sewage for residents. It is worth to be noted here that the small and mini scaled industries produce more waste than the large scaled industries in compared to the waste created per unit. Lack of proper sanitation and drainage in urban and rural areas has also resulted in dumping of sewage and garbage into the rivers. In most cases, the drainage system, which was designed for storm water only, is being used as a sewer; and the sewage directly flows into the river without any treatment.
The seepage from the septic tanks contaminated ground water in most of the urban areas. The fact tells that virtually all the Kathmandu homeowners build private septic tanks in their generally tiny land plots- often covering just 60 square meters- without sufficient room for soak pits. The still toxic semi- treated effluent from the tank cannot find adequate area for dissipation and concentrates in the residential yards.
Similarly the water provided to the people through the supply pipes are itself not good for health. Primarily the intake storage itself is contaminated and secondly the intermitted supply through the pipe creates suction inside the pipe creating the possibility for the underground and the leaked sewage get mixed into the supplied water wherever possible. Empirical studies of drinking water throughout Nepal have found that the fecal coliform contamination in the water consistently exceeds WHO guidelines for water considered fit for human consumption. According to the same study, the laboratory analysis of tap water from representative locations of the KTM urban area disclosed that almost 90% of the sample was importable.
Air Pollution:
Air pollution is becoming a significant problem in urban areas in Nepal, particularly in the bigger cities. Kathmandu Valley is particularly vulnerable to air pollution because of its bowl-shaped topography which restricts air movement.
Rapid urbanization, poor transport management and maintenance is leading to deteriorating air quality in the Kathmandu Valley, where population more than doubled between 1995-96 and 2003-2004, the report Kathmandu Valley Environmental Outlook said. Vehicular emissions were cited as a primary cause. According to the report, exhaust fumes increased by four times between 1993 and 2001 and PM10 concentration tripled over the past decade. Around 1,600 premature deaths yearly are attributed to poor air quality and health costs reached 210 million rupees (close to US$3 million) in 1990. Availability of agricultural land is also being hampered by increasing urbanization, the report said. Between 1984 and 2000, agricultural land in the valley decreased from 62% to 42%. "If this trend continues, by 2025 there will be no agricultural fields left in this once fertile valley," the report says.
Noise Pollution:
Outdated vehicular engines, increased air traffic at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and the siting of industries near residential premises are fast turning noise pollution into a major problem in urban Kathmandu. Weak transportation planning and virtual lack of traffic discipline on the apart of the drivers result in near continuous sounding of horns in the streets of Kathmandu.
There are many reasons for the growth of noise pollution from aircraft in KTM valley. Firstly TIA is located in close proximity to the centers of population. Secondly there is the rapid grow in air crafts and thirdly the physiographic configuration of the valley limits choice of flight paths for the air crafts. Outgoing jet planes must circle mountains of KTM valley. Incoming jet planes also circle the valley before landing.
While the growth in trade and tourism has created jobs and improved living standards, development in the last 30 years has created several physical, social, and environmental problems in Kathmandu. The fragile ecosystem is affected severely by uncurbed building and incompatible economic activities.
"Institutional weaknesses in managing urban development have resulted in haphazard growth, manifested in unplanned settlements, increase in vehicular emissions, polluting industries in or near urban areas, traffic congestion, and poor waste management. Kathmandu will continue to grow in future and, if rational planning and development strategies are not formulated, its growth will become a nightmare in the environmental sense," the report adds.
None of the big parties who fought the last general elections made environment an explicit agenda and those who did didn’t stand on what they said about launching the programmes like providing access to clean drinking water, and improving health standard. Environmental issues have not been treated as a separate package.
The major handicap with Nepal in environmental protection is that it has very weak institutional setup and therefore monitoring of environmental impacts and enforcement of regulations are nowhere to be seen. Worse, environmental rules, regulations, standards are in the initial state of formulation and enforcement. The only standards that are in practice for some years are vehicular emission standards. But monitoring of vehicles emissions is so weak that such provision has not stopped polluting vehicles yet.

Improved planning and zoning, land pooling, better solid waste management, rainwater harvesting, a variety of infrastructural and technical measures and vastly improved coordination and enforcement can be some of the meditative measure that can be applied to control the growing environmental problem of KTM and Nepal as a whole. Community mobilization was also cited as critical to achieving these goals, particularly in an area that is prone to natural disasters.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is committed to address the mounting challenges of urbanization; its impact on the environment, society and economy and take a leading role in promoting environmental stewardship building mutual support and cooperation with cities in Asia Pacific region. As concrete demonstration of this commitment, by the year 2010, KMC will:
(1) Improve transportation and waste collection system;
(2) Select and construct more transfer stations and landfill site;
(3) Promote public participation and behavioral change by establishing more nature clubs, training programs and regular integrations with locals;
(4) Conduct media campaign for waste segregation at source
(5) Lobby tax exception for material recycling;
(6) Manage and implement community-based clean up programs such as street clean-up, community parks, historical places and temples and river clean up programs;
(7) Promote household composting programs by providing compost bins and bags at 45% subsidy rate;
(8) Co-operate with central government to precede establishment of long-term landfill site;
(9) Expand more community-based recycling center and medium scale vermi-composting;
(10) Promote biogas technology from vegetable waste and night soil waste;
(11) Mobilize school children and local communities for environmental activities;
(12) Provide training and assistance to community groups interested in environmental protection;
(13) Mobilize youth city volunteers as a linkage between KMC and citizens in environmental campaign;
(14) Assist locals in marketing recycled products and provide a forum for recycling industries to display a raising of public awareness programs through mass media such as message board, exhibition, metro FM and national televising to promote their products;
(15) Implement Kathmandu Metropolitan City's (KMC) Public-Private-Partnership guidelines;
(16) Prepare the Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) Bi-laws in partnership with UN-Habitat and a local NGO;
(17) Enforce sanitation bi-laws.
(Collected from
If the above plans made by KMC are met on time, there would be no doubt that the environmental pollution will not only be decreased but also removed to a greater extend.