With air quality deteriorating and levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) increasing, the pollution crisis in Kathmandu is on the verge of becoming the new capital punishment for the valley's inhabitants, a media report said.
A group of 15 college students wrapped themselves in plastic sheets, wound ropes around their neck and stood at Tinkune, one of the busiest thoroughfares of the Nepali capital, on Thursday offering quite a bizarre sight to passers-by and commuters alike.
They had but one aim: drawing the attention of the authorities to the pollution crisis, the Kathmandu Post daily reported on Friday.
There has been widespread criticism from different quarters of the government's apathy towards addressing the crisis, while many have come out on the streets to raise awareness about the rising pollution levels and demand immediate measures to tackle the problem.
"All of us in the capital are facing a hard time breathing these days. But we can do nothing. So we are huddled here wrapped in plastic sheets and ropes wound around our necks, in an indication how we are choked and our lungs are constricted by the air we breathe," said Tanka Chaulagain, who choreographed the act.
The students are from Kantipur Film Academy.
According to public group Drishti Kathmandu, which has placed air quality monitoring devices at 17 different locations in the Valley, the level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air on Wednesday stood at 125 microgram per cubic metres.
The World Health Organisation's upper safe limit of daily PM2.5 concentration in the air is 25 microgram per cubic metres while the standard set by the Nepal government is 40 µg/m3. PM2.5 includes pollutants that penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health.
"Pollution has emerged as one of the most serious problems in the Capital. The ongoing road-widening drive and pipe-laying work for Melamchi Water Supply Project have only added to the woes," said Chaulagain.
"Our aim is to raise awareness and protest the government's lack of interest in working to mitigate pollution. We, as film academy students, wanted to do it differently."
The students said they are planning more pollution-related performance art in the future, if the issue remains unresolved.