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[KATHMANDU] Diesel generators that are started up during power cuts are significantly polluting the Nepali capital and releasing global warming agents into atmosphere, researchers say.
Preliminary results of a study conducted by the multi-stakeholder Clean Air Network–Nepal (CAAN) and presented at a workshop held in Kathmandu last month (30 August) say that diesel generators released 1,185 tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO) and 155 tonnes of black carbon (BC) into the city's air this year.
While CO emissions can lead to the formation of tropospheric ozone, a greenhouse gas, BC contributes to global warming through its ability to absorb atmospheric heat. Both CO and BC are formed through incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as diesel.
CAAN researchers recommend enforcement of stringent emission standards for diesel generators along with switching to alternative renewable sources of electricity during power cuts to tackle deteriorating air quality.
"Pollutants like CO and BC from diesel generators, along with dust from Kathmandu's ongoing road widening project, have exposed people to the risk of respiratory ailments," says Anjila Manandhar, lead researcher at CAAN.
"We are still working to tell the exact percentage of increase in air pollution caused by diesel  generators," Manandhar tells SciDev.Net. 
In Nepal, power cuts may last 16 hours in the winter months, increasing the demand for imported petroleum products. Last January, Kathmandu’s daily demand for diesel exceeded 700,000 litres and diesel generators accounted for 59 per cent of it.
The workshop identified lack of standardised emission measurements to provide more accurate data for emission inventories and inadequate emission control techniques as key research gaps.
Emission inventories for major pollution sources in the Kathmandu, compiled by the Sustainable Atmosphere for the Kathmandu Valley (SusKat) initiative, led by Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam, have basic figures for black carbon and fine particulate matter (PM).
"We can say for sure that the level of black carbon is 5—10 times higher in Kathmandu than what you see in moderate sized cities in developed countries," says SusKat team leader, Maheshwar Rupakheti. "Fine particle concentrations in Kathmandu's atmosphere during December 2012—June 2013 almost always exceeded WHO standards." 
Kathmandu's air quality monitoring stations have been out of order since 2007 when the average PM 10 (particulate matter 100 times finer than human hair) concentration was 173 micrograms per cubic metre — significantly higher than the WHO threshold of 50 micrograms per cubic metre.
Link to SusKat paper