A user on Quora asked recently how bad the air pollution in Nepal is. Nepal has glorious mountains and shining temples. But how is the air?
I checked the World Health Organization’s global PM2.5 database. According to that database, Kathmandu’s PM2.5 particulate pollution averaged 49 micrograms/m3 in 2013:
That’s just about double the WHO’s 24-hour limit of 25 micrograms. That means, on average, the air has dangerous levels of tiny particles. I’d guess winter heating brings along days that are easily 5 times that high or more.
How Does Kathmandu Compare to Other Major Cities?
Forty-nine micrograms is pretty bad, but Kathmandu is lower than Delhi and Beijing:
Yet “better than Delhi” isn’t much of a prize. Kathmandu is still far from the levels of US cities like New York, which made it just under the WHO’s stricter annual limit.
Bottom line: Kathmandu’s air pollution isn’t the worst in the neighborhood, but it is far above safe limits.
If I lived in Kathmandu, I’d watch the AQI from the US Embassy, carry a mask, and purify my air at home.
Breathe Safe in Nepal
Based on this data, and after getting emails from air-breathers-in-need in Nepal, I decided to set up Smart Air Nepal with the help of Shishir, a dedicated local. We’re shipping the Original DIY, Cannon, HEPA filters, and carbon filters in Nepal.
Breathe safe, Nepal!
Thomas is an Associate Professor of Behavior Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the founder of, a social enterprise to help people in China breathe clean air without shelling out thousands of dollars for expensive purifiers.