Surrounded by one of the Earth's freshest and purest natural zones, Nepal's capital Kathmandu that is located around 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the Everest mountain range, is trying to curb pollution and recover the purity of its air.

Last week, the Nepalese government banned from the roads public vehicles older than 20 years in an attempt to bring down the high levels of air pollution, although the measure is widely seen as insufficient.

"Banning old vehicles is a welcome decision but a lot more has to be done to bring improvement in the pollution level," environment expert and adviser to the United Nations Habitat Bhusan Tuladhar told EFE.

Nearly one million vehicles, including 238,000 four-wheelers, travel on Kathmandu's roads and the ban has affected around 2,500 taxis and buses, manufactured before 1997.

Along with a total ban on all vehicles that fail pollution tests - irrespective of how old they are - Tuladhar also recommends moving away from Kathmandu the nearly 300 brick kilns and asphalting the roads to stop dust particles from being suspended in air.

A study by Nepal's National Health Research Council revealed that in 2016 the level of the particulate matter PM 2.5 (those less than 2.5 microns in size) was higher than 40 micrograms per cubic meter for 207 days of the year and in February it was around 90 micrograms.

PM 2.5 suspended particles are the smallest and most harmful and the World Health Organization considers that air ceases to be healthy once PM 2.5 reaches 10 to 12 micrograms.

"The polluted air contributes to over 30 percent of respiratory illness," said Council director Khem Karki, adding that pollution is much higher during dry seasons.

According to a recent report by Nepal's Department of Environment, vehicles contribute to 38 percent of air pollution, while other sources include burning of waste (19 percent) and the smoke emitted by traditional brick kilns (11 percent).

"We are quite aware that a lot needs to be done in addition to banning old vehicles. We are looking at what more needs to be done," Department of Environment Director General Maha Prasad Duwadi told EFE.

Duwadi added the Nepalese government is taking strict measures to check vehicle emission levels while adding that all vehicles exceeding the limit will be banned.

Binod Ghimire