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HOW GREEN CAN YOU BE? | KALASH RATNA TULADHAR

If you haven’t heard folks, green is the new black. It’s been the buzz word for over a decade all over the world. People have invested trillions of dollars into it and have also created new industries out of it. It’s time we step up our game and get on the Green bandwagon. You might be thinking that your vehicle is pretty environment friendly and you’ve already gotten on the Green bandwagon, but trust me, I’ll change your opinion on how Green you are by the end of this article.

All our life we’ve been using fuel efficiency and fuel economy (refer to previous issue) as a benchmark to gauge the economic and environmental impact of fuel consumption. Sure, it has helped us be a little conscious by thinking with our wallets and as a secondary benefit lowering the environmental impact by a little bit, but these days we’re talking about hundreds and thousands of vehicles plying the streets of our country. Kilometers per liter is just not going to cut it anymore! We need to delve a little deeper and understand that no matter how efficient your vehicle might be, unless you don’t use it or don’t own one, you’re polluting the environment.

Here’s a fact for you, a litre of diesel, when burned produces 2.6 kgs of carbon dioxide (CO2) and a litre of petrol when burned produces 2.3 kgs of CO2. The reason behind getting more mass of CO2 than the mass of fuel consumed is because of the oxygen added to the combustion process. We see vehicle manufacturers and environmental agencies across the globe working on making vehicles more efficient, reducing tailpipe emissions, and that has helped tremendously in controlling pollution all over the world. But the fact still remains that no matter how efficient your vehicle is, if you burn a litre of fuel you produce CO2. Multiply that by the number of people on the streets and you have a catastrophe in the making. We have been greatly neglecting the impact of fuel on our environment and its high time we change that.

We as a country import 1,450,000,000 litres of fuel every year! All of that fuel is consumed by us on our daily commutes, from starting the day by going to the gym, going to work, hanging out with our buddies, going to the movies, etc. This all add up to the amount of fuel we consume as commuters, be it directly or indirectly. Assuming a 50-50 use of petrol and diesel the average CO2 production comes to 2.45 kgs per litre of fuel consumed. Resulting in a total approximation of about 3.5 billion kgs of CO2 produced annually as a country. The data provided by the International Energy Agency shows that per capita CO2 emissions is 200 kgs per person annually for the whole of Nepal. But the story is different for Kathmandu, where most of the fuel imported in to Nepal is consumed. In 2012, 46% of total petrol imported and 16% of total diesel imported was consumed in the valley amounting to 31% of total fuel imports of the country. The reduction in air quality of the valley can be directly linked to the fuel consumed in the valley with increasing number of sales of vehicles. 38% of PM10 pollutants has been linked to tailpipe emissions in the valley which, if uncontrolled will only get worse by the day.

Kathmandu’s demand of 450 million litres of fuel annually to service the needs of about 3 million people living in the valley amounts to a per capita fuel consumption of 150 litres of fuel per year. At a rate of 2.45 kgs per litre, Kathmandu valley produces 1.1 billion kgs of CO2 a year and a per capita CO2 emission of 367.5 kgs of CO2 a year per person. That is 83% more than the rest of the country; no wonder our air quality is suffering so much. There are other factors involved in the devastation of our air quality, but the power to change that is in our hands.

Clearly, we are on a path of self destruction, I may sound like a doomsday prophet shouting out loud that the end is near, but it definitely does sound like the end is near if we keep going at this rate. However, all is not lost, there are several options before us that we can adopt or implement right now that will help us save our valley, our country and our future generations, and maybe even get a chance to go on TED Talks and talk about how Green we are like Bhutan did a few years ago claiming that they were carbon negative. It’s a noble thought for us, and one that is not too late for us to implement.

The idea is to offset our carbon footprint and for our purposes we shall look at it on a personal level. As a resident of Kathmandu, my average fuel consumption is 150 litres of petrol a year. I produce about 345 kgs of CO2 annually and I need to offset the amount of CO2 produced by me. I can offset my CO2 emission by either not using any fuel at all, by opting to ride a bicycle, or electric vehicles; or by planting trees to help in capturing the CO2 released by fuel. With various options in the market now-a-days like NIU Mobility, Terra motors, Mahindra Reva, Kia Soul EV, etc. available in the market (as mentioned in previous articles relating to the scope of electric vehicles) reducing our carbon footprint has become easier. Along with that if we plan on planting trees along the roads and in our backyards, it will help even more.

I say this because just planting trees is not going to help us reach our goal (of this article) to become carbon neutral and even carbon negative if we can. We can plan on planting trees, but how many trees do we plant? Where do we plant these trees? A typical tree can absorb about 22 kgs of CO2 a year; that’s another sad fact for you. As we established above that Kathmandu produces about 1.1 billion kgs of CO2 a year, just to offset that we need to plant 50.6 million trees. That comes out to around 17 trees per person living in the Valley. You might say that we have many trees surrounding the valley and surely that is enough to offset our tailpipe emissions, but we must understand that those trees have existed even before we started polluting. But that isn’t bad considering our neighbors to the north and south, where India needs to plant 54 trees per person and China needs to plant 208 trees per person. Whereas, an average American need to plant 909 trees to be carbon neutral.

For our quest to be carbon neutral, it is not too late to act. If we are able to plant trees now which will reduce our carbon footprint once they start growing, and start using alternative sources of transport, carpooling when possible and using public transport when feasible, we can surely decrease our carbon footprint, but we should act now before the situation worsens. So, let us all find it in ourselves and make an effort to reach a milestone where we can also boast of being carbon neutral or even carbon negative in the very near future.

Contributed by- Kalash Ratna Tuladhar, Founder at Iron Monk Works:
Mr. Tuladhar is a graduate from the Minnesota State University in Automotive Engineering Technology. He formerly worked for MV Agusta and Bikers Nepal as the Head of after sales.

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