Any city in a bowl shaped valley has issues with it’s air quality. When I left Kathmandu after my first longer stay there, end of 1993, it was already bad. During the following two decades many things changed. Population quadrupled, motorized traffic shot through the roof. On the other hand, the extremely polluting tempos (diesel three wheelers) were taken off the street and replaced by battery powered equivalents, the Chobar cement factory closed, but the number of brick kilns exploded, although they are not year round in operation.
Then, about a year ago the current government decided the metropolitan area within the so-called ring road needed a Haussmannesque road widening intervention. The destruction that this modernization produces has turned large parts of the city into what feels like a war zone, and the dust has increased noticeably.
Although no one who’s been in the valley longer ago can fully escape the before-all-was-nicer illusion I don’t think I am blinded by nostalgia. I am able enough to accept the place as a package deal of World Heritage sites, Sewers and Slums, Palaces and Bazaars. But the dust….
Leah Olson, who describes her thing with Kathmandu as a love/hate relationship wrote a post on the issue that captures it all. I particularly liked her experiment. And this was way before the road widening started! After a motor bike ride Leah took out one of her facial wipes that she carries for plane rides and wiped exactly half of her face clean and left the other half as it was after the bike ride. Then she took a picture….