They’re there – behind the smog. In the 1990s, peaks such as Ganesh I, Langtang Lirung and Dorje Lakpa could be seen most mornings from Kathmandu. Now they’re rarely visible from the metropolitan area except on clear mornings after a soaking rain, or on bandh (general strike) days when all traffic is banned.
Kathmandu is among the world’s most polluted cities, and the traffic and fumes are appalling. The ever-increasing number of cars, motorbikes, buses and lorries, fuel adulteration, lax emissions tests, poorly surfaced roads, rapid urbanization, rubbish dumping and high levels of general pollution, mean that air quality frequently reaches “unhealthy” levels, according to official measurements. This toxic brew irritates lungs and eyes, weakens immune systems and increases the long-term risk of various health problems. If you can help it, don’t stay more than a couple of days in Kathmandu at the start of your trip. If you do, you’re likely to come down with a chest or sinus infection that will dog you for days and may be hard to shake if you go trekking.