Status of Environmental Health in Nepal

By Nepal, Pashupati | Contributions to Nepalese Studies, January 2006 | Go to article overview
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Status of Environmental Health in Nepal

Nepal, Pashupati, Contributions to Nepalese Studies


The study of diseases is really the study of man and his environment. The interplay and integration of two ecological universes- the internal environment of man himself and the external environment- determine the health status of an individual, a community or a nation, which surround him. World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It is evident from the definition that there is rather an extension of elements of health as social well being than a limited general concepts of health as against sickness. In the modern concept, disease is due to a disturbance in the delicate balance between man and his environment. Three ecological factors (agent, host and environment) are responsible for disease. The disease agent of disease is usually identified with the help of laboratory. The host is available for study; but the environment from which the patient comes is largely unknown. Yet frequently, the key to the nature, occurrence. prevention and control of diseases lies in the environment. Without such knowledge, this key may not be available to the physician who desires to cure disease, prevent or control it (Park 1994). Hence, the study of diseases is really the study of man and his environment.

Many of the health problems have been perceived to be the direct fallout of the environment. The high incidence of heart disease and cancer, for instance, has been increasing linked to diet, lifestyle, exposure to toxic wastes, etc., all of which, can be controlled by changes in a given environment (Voluntary Health Association of India 1992).

Disease can not arise without the convergence at a certain point in time and space of two orders of factors: factors that take the form of an environmental stimulus ... and second, factors that condition the response of the tissues. These stimuli, these challenges to adjustments, are not the same in every environment. They vary with ... location (Husain 1994)

Population explosion, deteriorating environmental conditions and resource constraints to tackle the key environmental health problems have affected human health and the health of the ecosystem. Planners and policy makers in Nepal are more concerned today than ever in the past about the deteriorating environmental health issues. The ability to link health and environmental data, and thereby to understand relationships between the levels of exposure and health outcome, is clearly vital in attempts to control exposures and protect health. This capability is particularly important for countries like Nepal where the issues of environmental pollution have traditionally taken a second place to demands "for economic development (UNEP/WHO 1996). However, the present study attempts to present the environment health hazard pathway and the linkage between environment and health in Nepal with special reference to environmental pollution. Simultaneously, some recommendations are suggested to keep positive link between environment and health in Nepal.

The Environment Health Hazard Pathway

Environmental health hazards take many forms. They range from traditional hazards such as human faeces, in densely populated areas, to the wide mix of air pollutants emitted by road vehicles. The hazard pathway is described in Figure 1. In most cases, the starting point is some form of human activity and rarely, a natural process, which release pollutants into the environment (UNEP/WHO 1996)


Emission Sources and Processes: The process of release of pollutants is known as emission. The emission of pollutants due to the human activities are highly varied with time and space. The major sources of emission include mining and quarrying, energy production, manufacturing, transport, agriculture, domestic activities and waste management but other sources such as tourism, forestry and commercial services may also be important.

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