When we think of Nepal, we think about temples and tradition, high mountains and wide plains. There’s no doubt that this landlocked nation is beautiful, but the fact that it’s also home to one of the world’s most polluted cities slightly mars its reputation.
In recent years, Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu has consistently ranked high in the list of cities in the world with the poorest air quality. In fact, by mid-2018, global crowdsourced database Numbeo has placed it at second place.
One report from The Himalayan Times in January this year points to emissions from vehicles, industries, and brick kilns; and “the seemingly unending road demolition-road construction cycle and Melamchi Drinking Water Project” as the major culprits behind Kathmandu’s deteriorating air quality. Several reports have even tagged the city a “dust bowl,” referring to the shape of the Kathmandu Valley where it is located.
Skanda Gautam, a photojournalist from The Himalayan Times, highlights this alarming issue in his series, Air Pollution in Nepal. Skanda’s series depicts scenes that are a far cry from the breathtaking images that have inspired many to visit the country: everyday folks going about the city that’s engulfed in dust, and activists wearing masks or covered in big plastic sheets with ropes tied around their necks to help bring their message across. There’s even one photo of a statue with a mask on its face, too.
People turn to photography to preserve memories but when they use it to tell stories and highlight issues that concern society, it becomes much more meaningful. Through photography, Skanda was able to accurately portray one of the biggest problems that his country is currently facing and share it with the rest of the world.