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Mobilizing Kathmandu residents to tackle air pollution through a digital citizens movement

We aim to reduce harmful waste burning practices and toxic levels of vehicle emissions through a citizens’-based smartphone application.

Photo of Bahar Kumar
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Nepal Communitere helped seed a citizen's movement called Drishti Kathmandu, whose vision is to eradicate lethal levels of air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley. Drishti is a point of focus where the gaze rests --gazing outward while bringing awareness inward, to "see the world as it really is". This is a project initiated by concerned residents who decided to raise their voices collectively and raise awareness about toxic air pollution in the Kathmandu valley. Drishti began by making accessible to the public realtime data on air quality by installing 17 monitoring stations around the Kathmandu Valley and making the data available through www.http://drishti.live/ . Drishti advocates for clean air, dispel myths and expose the realities of the serious effects of Kathmandu's air pollution on the population's health. Drishti supports citizens' movements, individual action and government initiatives working together to make Kathmandu Valley air breathable for all.

Over the past two years Drishti Kathmandu has been able to create an environmental justice movement by mobilizing residents and key stakeholders including local officials, research institutes and waste management organizations. Clean Up Nepal (http://cleanupnepal.org.np) is a partner organization that has developed and piloted the Nepal Waste Map (http://nepalwastemap.org) app in four communities in Kathmandu.

As a community resource center and innovation hub in the heart of Kathmandu, Nepal Communitere will support the Drishti network and help in scaling and fully launching the Nepal Waste Map app so that residents can be directly involved in reporting trash burning incidents and illegal levels of vehicle emissions to their local municipalities.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are citizens and residents living in the Kathmandu Valley, one of the most polluted cities in the world. They will directly benefit by having cleaner air to breathe which is a human right for all people. Currently, the Nepal Health Research Council estimates 9 deaths per day in Nepal that are due to air pollution. By reducing the high levels of air pollution in Kathmandu more lives will be saved. Those that will directly benefit most from cleaner air are children and elders who are most vulnerable to negative health outcomes due to air pollution.

The Nepal Waste Map app will be utilized by urban residents who have access to a smartphone and are able to report cases of illegal waste burning and illegal levels of vehicle emissions. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the entire population of the Kathmandu valley due to the fact that everyone in the community is exposed to the harmful health outcomes of air pollution.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Solving the pollution problem in Kathmandu requires a combination of increasing public awareness, evidence-based advocacy and effective implementation of government policies with government and community working collaboratively. We intend to leverage civic engagement to assist government to implement policies that will help reduce two of the most significant sources of pollution in the Kathmandu Valley, vehicle emissions and open waste burning. Our effort is centered around using a digital platform to engage community in addressing the problem and converting apathy to action. Drishiti has already been very successful in raising awareness about the problem but now, we intend to use the evidence to address the problem by placing community at the center of the solution through a digital platform.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Nepal Communitere is an innovation hub and community resource center based in Kathmandu, seeding and supporting projects and initiatives that have social impact through a dynamic makerspace, co-working space and training lab open for all.
Website: https://nepal.communitere.org

The other partner organizations:
Drishti Kathmandu Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/drishtiKathmandu/?ref=bookmarks
Clean Up Nepal: http://cleanupnepal.org.np
Nepal Waste Map: http://nepalwastemap.org

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Drishti Kathmandu was inspired by a kitchen table conversation between two like-minded individuals who were tired of complaining about the air pollution in Kathmandu and decided they needed to do something about it. One was a USA EPA air quality researcher and the other a Nepali returnee from the US who was directly seeing the health impacts of air pollution on his family. They began by planting air monitoring devices throughout Kathmandu and making this data available to the public.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Fighting air pollution in the Kathmandu valley directly impacts both the planet and the prosperity of everyone living in this city. Due to the fact that 9 people die every day to air pollution in Nepal, it is critical that air pollution is addressed in order to allow the people of Kathmandu to live healthy, peaceful lives. It will reduce morbidity and mortality which is directly related to increased prosperity for residents of Kathmandu, irrespective of one’s class, caste, gender, ethnicity or social status. Being exposed to high levels of air pollution on a regular basis and suffering from health consequences contributes to high levels of stress and decreases people’s sense of peace and wellness. Therefore, the Drishti Kathmandu app would contribute to a better planet, increased prosperity and improved peace of mind for the residents of Kathmandu.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Nepal Communitere will be working alongside Drishti Kathmandu in the direct design, testing and scaling of this project. The main collaborating partner will be Clean Up Nepal, a Nepali-registered not-for-profit company that is a member of the Drishti Network. Clean Up Nepal is also leading the development and piloting of the Nepal Wast Map digital application. Over the past two years, Nepal Communitere has provided a physical space through it's community resource center for the Drishti Kathmandu network to form, grow and generate a larger movement to collectively address air pollution. Drishti will work closely with Clean Up Nepal to scale the Nepal Waste Map to all the municipalities in the Kathmandu Valley by working with local mayors and key stakeholders and leaders to implement the app. These groups have been working closely over the past two years and will continue to support the overall goal to reduce air pollution and save lives in the Kathmandu Valley.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Nepal has a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and this project will engage technical innovators who will be able to offer their skills to develop and refine the Nepal Wast Map app. Nepal is also undergoing a national process of decentralization and federalism. This will allow more decision-making powers to local governments as they will have a greater voice in how resources should be spent for their communities. This creates space for movements like Drishti Kathmandu to support local leaders.

Geographic Focus

Drishti's focus is on the Kathmandu valley of Nepal with a population of over 4 Million residents.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The project idea will require 24 months to fully develop the Nepal Waste Map app in collaboration with Clean Up Nepal. Once the app has been developed, Nepal Communitere will leverage relationships in Government of Nepal to work towards implementing the app through a necessary response mechanism. There will be several iterations of the app that will be tested and refined before every municipality in Kathmandu will be utilizing it.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Ashley Tillman
Team

Bahar Kumar great to have you in the Challenge! I am curious to understand how you activate community engagement and would love to better understand your model for fostering peace in Kathmandu.

Tuba Naziruddin and Jean-Marc Mercy I am curious if you have any thoughts or questions too!

Photo of Bahar Kumar
Team

Hi Ashley! We were able to activate community engagement by first making daily air quality data available to the public. This increased people's awareness about the alarming levels of pollution, especially during the winter season. As people are experiencing adverse health outcomes they are directly suffering as a result from high levels of air pollution. This knowledge can lead to a feeling of disempowerment if communities feel they cannot do anything to address these issues. It leads to deep levels of stress, reduces quality of life, and in many fosters anger and frustration towards decision-makers. Drishti Kathmandu recently mobilized nearly 200 citizens to March for Clean Air on World Environment Day on June 5th and it was clear that communities are ready to take action and hold local municipalities accountable. https://www.facebook.com/bahar.kumar/videos/10156373101635987/UzpfSTExNjQwNjQ2OTY5Nzc5MzE6MTg3OTUxMTE4ODc2NjYwOA/
 The Nepal Waste Map app allows citizens to feel as if they have a voice and control over the problem. They can directly contribute to reporting and mitigating the problems resulting in an overall better quality of life, reducing anger and frustration and fostering peace in Kathmandu.