EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The Kathmandu Valley as a science-policy laboratory: When science is insufficient to achieve clean air

Arnico Panday1,2
Arnico Panday
  • 1IIDS (Institute for Integrated Development Studies), Kathmandu, Nepal
  • 2Arnico Panday Consulting Pvt. Ltd., Kathmandu, Nepal (

Over the past decade the air pollution problem in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley in Nepal – South Asia’s Mini-Mexico City – has become one of the most studied in the region.  Several international field campaigns resulted  50+ journal papers, while three separate networks now provide live air quality data to policymakers and the public.  They valley’s air pollution meteorology, emissions, ozone chemistry, aerosol chemical composition, health impacts, and the role of pollution transport have all been studied in detail.  At the same time, interdisciplinary task forces have laid out clear regulatory priorities and action plans for the Kathmandu Valley. 

Yet except for a decline in coarse dust (due to more roads getting paved), air quality has not improved in the Kathmandu Valley. Regulatory interventions have mostly been spontaneous, devoid of expert inputs, and short-lived.  There exists today sufficient scientific understanding to design a sophisticated regulatory framework that would respond to changing situations in real time to maintain the valley’s air quality.  But today that is just a dream.  

As a front-row participant in the design of the field campaigns in the Kathmandu Valley, in policy making, and most recently in alternative politics, the author has unique insights into challenges that need to be overcome for there to be serious government action to clean up the Kathmandu Valley’s air.  At EGU he will share his insights into which scientific results did or did not end up being useful in shaping the public policy narrative, and why.  He will conclude his presentation by taking the lessons from the Kathmandu Valley from the past decade to provide general principals for other cities with air pollution problems but little data.

How to cite: Panday, A.: The Kathmandu Valley as a science-policy laboratory: When science is insufficient to achieve clean air, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8285,, 2023.