Each day, armed with our masks and scarves, we head out onto the battlefield, where the enemies are not fellow humans but tiny dust and smoke particles, almost invisible to the naked eye except when they are present in hordes. And oh, aren’t they present in hordes. Particulate matters of widths less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) are the especially insidious enemies that enter our lungs unimpeded by all the physical barriers set up by our body such as nose hair and mucus. According to the World Health Organisation, 4.2 million deaths worldwide every year are attributed to ambient air pollution.
But we don’t really need all that science and air quality monitors and sensors to tell the local inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley how polluted this place is. Especially those of us with asthma and bronchitis and other breathing ailments, we don’t even need to leave the house to feel suffocated and ill.