Looking at old photos of Nepal makes me strangely nostalgic of a past I never saw. Pristine hills and mountains, clear blue skies, acres upon acres of greenery, the list pretty much goes on. While parts of the country still remains intact in its natural beauty, the same cannot be said for our cities. Rampant urban development have turned our major cities into dust bowls, with Kathmandu being impacted the most, and earning itself the most unfortunate nickname: Dustmandu.

Nepal’s air quality ranked 177th out of 178 countries according to Yale University’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and it has only been a downward spiral since then. Cities are choking under layers of dust, most prominently since the 2015 earthquake and the reconstruction efforts that followed. The level of pollutants in the atmosphere have been steadily increasing and remain dangerously above the norm.

Air pollution Nepal Photo: Gopen Rai

But we’re not just talking about air pollution in Kathmandu here: the increase in the level of pollutants have dire consequences in health and environment across Nepal and beyond. It is a worrying thought that more people over time feel the need to wear masks on a daily basis to protect themselves.

We’ve seen the scientific numbers behind the air pollution but now we want to hear directly from you on how you have been affected by the degrading air quality. This survey called “How polluted is Nepal?” aims to understand the situation of air pollution, focusing on its long-term impacts, and finding solutions beyond just the numbers.

We need to start having an evidence-based conversation surrounding air pollution so that prompt actions can be taken to improve the quality of the air we live in.

Please share this survey with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email so we can gather more data. If you want to share photos or videos depicting air pollution in your cities, please use the hashtag #breathefreely when you share them.

We want to hear how you have been impacted and what we can do together to make our cities and our country clean again. After all, we all deserve a chance to #breathefreely.