Saturday, December 31, 2016

Kolkata to Claim the Dirtiest City Title from Delhi

Calcutta is poised to claim the crown of most polluted Indian city from Delhi this winter. The central pollution control board's Air Quality Index (AQI) shows the city ahead of the capital in this winner-loses-all race, based on the severity of pollution in some locations. Independent reports generated by a pollution measuring Android app called Plume Air Report suggest that Calcutta's air quality is even worse than some of the world's more lung-unfriendly cities.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the city has been experiencing the worst spell of air pollution this year since December 23. The AQI, calculated after collating data sourced from various government agencies on different kinds of air pollutants, including particulate matter, shows that the average pollution count between December 23 and 27 was 363. A count above 300 is categorised as "very poor".

On December 25, when Calcutta's AQI at Rabindra Bharati was pegged at 414, the reading at ITO, Delhi, was 390. State pollution control board data from the Rabindra Bharati monitoring station shows that the average of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 between December 23 and 27, 2015, had been 234 micrograms. The PM10 average for the same period this year is 332 micrograms. Pollution increases in winter due to the phenomenon of "temperature inversion". The cold traps pollution close to the ground, particularly in the absence of wind, and maximises the effect on those exposed to it.

Read the full article @ Calcutta Telegraph

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This is modeled air quality for India in forecast mode. The reports for all the 640 Indian districts everyday @ India Air Quality.Info

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More on air pollution @ http://www.urbanemissions.info

Infograph - Outdoor Air Pollution Standards in India


More on air pollution @ http://www.urbanemissions.info

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Friday, December 30, 2016

6500 People Died of Respiratory Problems in Delhi in 2015

There is no stopping the national capital from driving its air pollution to a new high. The city of about 20 million, which ranks among the world’s top cities with foul air on a WHO list, has almost 10 million vehicles, a record it set this year. Delhi government data released on Thursday shows the number of registered vehicles increased from 8.8 million in 2014-15 to 9.7 million in 2015-16 — a spike of 9.93% and the highest in eight years. The city has the country’s highest density of vehicles, a primary source of air pollution.

According to an IIT-Kanpur report, toxic exhaust fumes from vehicles constitute 25% of the city’s air pollution. The latest government data show 6,502 people died of respiratory diseases in 2015, making it one of the leading causes of death. Exhaust fumes coupled with smoke from farmers burning paddy stalk in neighbouring states and dust from construction sites formed the thickest smog for two decades to shroud the city after Diwali this year.

The Capital is struggling to reduce its air pollution, with measures such as a road rationing formula that allows cars with odd- and even-numbered number plates to ply on alternates days. The government as well as the National Green Tribunal and pollution control boards had banished smoke-belching trucks from the city and sought to scrap all ageing vehicles above 15 years. But these measures are having little effect as people are forced to arrange their own ride because of an inadequate public transport system, which runs mainly on clean fuel such as CNG and electricity.The ridership and fleet strength of the Delhi Transport Corporation — the city’s public transporter — depleted in the past year. From almost 3.9 million in 2014-15, the daily average ridership of DTC buses decreased to about 3.5 million in 2015-16, the data show.

The number of buses depleted from 4,705 to 4,352 during the period, despite the government’s efforts to bulk up the fleet to encourage people to use public transport more often to reduce air pollution. The city needs 11,000 buses but even with private buses bolstering the operation, it is around 4,000 short. Besides pushing air pollution up, the rise in vehicle density has clogged the city’s road network and forced Delhi residents to spend more time travelling. A study by six road design experts found recently that people’s commuting time has doubled in the past six years and traffic speed has halved during peak hours. The average speed has come down from 42kmph to 20kmph. Experts said the city will crawl at 5kmph in 10 years, the average speed at which a human walks.

Read the full report @ Hindustan Times

Madrid Joins the Odd-Even Gang

Madrid has ordered half of most private cars off the roads on Thursday to tackle worsening air pollution, a first in Spain. The restrictions will operate between 6.30am and 9pm. The city council said in a statement: “vehicles with even-number registration plates will be allowed to drive around on even-number days and cars with odd-number registration plates on odd-number days”.

The measure is activated when levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere go above 200 microgrammes per cubic metre in at least two measuring stations for two days running, and if the air is unlikely to clear imminently. On Thursday, city environment councillor Ines Sabanes said the ban would not be extended as smog levels had dropped by the required amount. Other measures, including a ban on street parking for non-residents and reduced speed limits, will continue.

There are exceptions to the ban, such as for mopeds, hybrid cars, those carrying three people or more or used by disabled people. Buses, taxis and emergency vehicles are also exempt. With 3.2 million residents and 1.8m cars, Madrid often suffers from bad bouts of pollution. The move to ban half of cars is level three on a scale of four anti-pollution measures. Level four bans taxis from the city, except those that are hybrid cars. The measure implemented by the city hall, which has been led by an alliance of leftist groups since 2015, sparked criticism from the conservative Popular party (PP) which ruled Madrid for nearly a quarter of a century and governs at the national level.

Read the full article @ the Guardian

How China Decided to Go After Air Pollution

In the spring of 2015, the conversation on pollution in China kicked into an even higher gear with an online documentary film, Under the Dome, by a former TV journalist, Chai Jing. The documentary did for air pollution in China what Al Gore’s 2006 climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, did to raise consciousness about global warming. The movie was significant as a major intervention by a Chinese film-maker aimed at a Chinese audience.

Under the Dome features a casually dressed Chai Jing reciting a litany of hard truths about environmental damage to a riveted audience. Striking a chord with parents, the group that is arguably most attuned to pollution’s adverse effects, she begins by talking about the fears she had for her unborn daughter, after weeks of reporting in China’s more polluted areas while pregnant. Her daughter needed an operation immediately after birth for a tumour (although the link to air pollution is not established). Later in the film, Chai shows an interview she conducted in 2004 with a six-year-old girl. ‘Have you ever seen a real star?’ Chai asks the girl. ‘No,’ replies the child. ‘What about blue sky?’ ‘I’ve seen one that’s a little blue,’ the girl says. ‘And what about white clouds?’ Chai persists. ‘No, I haven’t,’ the child says shaking her head.

When the documentary was released online on 28 February, it generated more than 200 million hits in less than a week, causing the Chinese authorities to block access to it. The viral popularity of the movie was a clear indication of the possibility of environmentalism blossoming into an organized national political movement. The CCP has consistently demonstrated that when confronted with a potential challenge to its authority it moves to clamp down on public expression of this challenge. But often, the Party simultaneously attempts to redress the more egregious aspects of the underlying cause of discontentment as well. This has been the case with air pollution.

The CCP is cognizant that it rules over an increasingly globalized, affluent, urban society. China’s middle classes, the main consumers of the movie, are estimated to number almost half a billion people. As a constituency, the middle class has a stake in the continuation of the political status quo so long as the authorities can deliver both economic growth and social stability. However, this burgeoning class also wants a stronger participative voice in governance. Research shows that the demand for environmental improvement grows as societies become wealthier. Awareness of this desire has prompted the authorities to give environmentally oriented civil society groups more freedom to operate than is the norm for nongovernmental organizations in China.

Read the full article @ Scroll

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Delhi is Struggling to Enforce Court Decisions to Manage Air Pollution

@ CSE - Delhi needs short-term emergency action and strict enforcement of Supreme Court’s directives for effective control of toxic and dangerous air pollution, according to the report submitted by the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority for National Capital Region (EPCA) today (November 7, 2016) to the Supreme Court. Urging the government to treat this smog episode as a public health emergency, the report stated that actions on the court’s directive are lax and “do not recognise the urgency of toxic air pollution, particularly in winter months”.

Read the full press release @ Down to Earth

Are Supreme Court’s directives followed?
  • Diverting non-destined traffic by Haryana and Uttar Pradesh: While Delhi government has severe staff limitations to keep up the active diversion of vehicles, Haryana had ensured diversion of a total of 600,880 vehicles between January 21 and April 25, 2016 by setting up 13 check posts. Uttar Pradesh has also taken steps to set up check posts and billboards about the diversion of traffic not bound for Delhi.
  • Upgrading alternative bypass: After the Supreme Court’s directions for the speedy commissioning of the two expressways—Eastern and Western Expressways—to bypass Delhi, EPCA conducted a study and discovered that these key words are in “critically sub-standard conditions” and the progress is not satisfactory. 
  • Installing RFID for effective ECC collection: The Supreme Court had directed installation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) at 13 entry points into Delhi from where 80 per cent of the traffic comes. The Delhi government is now finalising the document with South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and after this is done, the tender will be floated. The transport department is also in the process of sanctioning Rs 120 crore over 5 years to SDMC for RFID installation at the 13 entry points into Delhi 
  • Shifting towards CNG-run taxis in NCR: Between May 10 and October 4, 2016, over 90 per cent of all taxi registered were on CNG. Between January 1 and August 19, 2016, 97 of the 104 new stations have commenced commercial operations as on June 30, 2016. With these, the total number of operating CNG stations in NCR has increased to 444. 
  • Augmenting bus fleet and metro: According to the assessment done by the EPCA, the Delhi government is in possession of 68 acres of land and other depot lands to accommodate more than 2000 additional buses. The DMRC, on February, had promised to commission 135 km of extended metro network in Phase III by December 2016. 
  • Controlling pollution through construction activities: While the EPCA has developed an accountability mechanism and created a guidance note for inspection of such sites, enforcement is lacking. 
  • Checking road dust: It is only recently that the Delhi government floated short-term tenders to procure such machines, although the process of vacuum cleaning the roads should have started in April 2016. 
  • Imposing ECC on private diesel cars above 2000 cc: The ECC is being collected at the rate of one per cent of the ex-showroom value of all new diesel cars registered in NCR. As on November 1, 2016, the total collection stands at Rs 8 crore. The EPCA has recommended using diesel cess for providing subsidy to farmers for upcoming Kharif harvesting season.
There’s hardly any headway when it comes to closure or transition to alternative fuel by Badarpur Thermal Power Plant and issues like waste burning. It has also come to pass that the government has spent only about eight per cent of the budgetary allocation (financial year 2016-17) of Rs 78 crore towards protecting environment.

Brick Kilns Blames for >50% of the Air Pollution Crisis in Dhaka


Brick kilns in and around Dhaka city are mostly responsible for the capital city’s air pollution, according to a research conducted by the country’s environment department in association with a Norway-based research institution NILU. Physicians said the polluted air is being inhaled by the city dwellers, entering their lungs and causing different kinds of diseases. According to the research findings, the brick kilns are causing 58 per cent of the air pollution in the city. Other than the brick kilns, dust from the roads and bare soil cause 18 per cent of the pollution, vehicles cause 10 per cent and others sources 14 per cent.

According to another research run by the World Bank on technology use in the Bangladesh brick kilns, shows that the kilns caused 38 per cent of the air pollution in 2011. Comparative study between the two research findings reveals that the air pollution in the city has been increased by 20 per cent in past few years. Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) joint secretary Sharif Jamil told Prothom Alo that brick kilns around the Dhaka city are primarily responsible for the air pollution as a high level of sulphur is being used in the kilns. The owners are being allowed to use coal in their kilns without testing the sulphur level.  Bangladesh brick manufacturing owners association secretary general Md Abu Bakar said there are more than 1000 brick kilns in and around the city. The level of pollution can be reduced with the use of a water sprinkler above the chimney. Abu Bakar said, as the technology is expensive, the owners are reluctant to use it.

According to a study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 2 lakh 32 thousand square feet of land is required for a brick kiln. This is taking over agricultural land. Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, “We should think of an alternative mechanism to replace this technology.” She also said the brick kilns are prime sources of greenhouse gas in the country. Brick kilns produce an approximately 8.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas each year that burn 2.2 million of tonnes coal and 1.9 million tonnes of firewood.

Read the full article @ Prothom Alo

Graded Emergency Response to Air Pollution in Indian Cities, for Winter 2017

The Centre’s graded response system to tackle air pollution, which proposes emergency measures such as odd-even car rationing scheme and closing schools based on the intensity of the situation, will not be enforced in the national capital this season. Union Environment Minister Anil Dave has said a detailed framework in this regard, which will not be limited to Delhi, will be out in January for its implementation in 2017.  “We are discussing the possible standards to be set. State Pollution Control Boards are being consulted. The details will be shared in January. In 2017, there should not be blame game among the states on pollution,” Dave said, alluding to the wrangling between Delhi and neighbouring Punjab and Haryana over farm fires.

 However, the comprehensive plan, prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), that focuses on Delhi, was submitted to the Supreme Court on December 2. The apex court had accepted and asked the Centre to notify it. Nearly a month has passed, a period which has also seen the air quality index entering the ‘severe’ zone, but no emergency measure has been imposed in the city, which is among the world’s most-polluted. “The Supreme Court has asked us to notify it under the Environment Protection Act. There is a process involved and that has started. But even if its draft is put out, it has to be kept in public domain for at least two months,” a senior Environment Ministry official said.

Read the full article @ Indian Express

Monday, December 26, 2016

Tehran Closed Schools Due to Air Pollution

Preschools and primary schools were closed in Tehran on Saturday, as the sprawling city experienced its second consecutive day of dangerously high pollutant levels. For the second day in a row, Tehran’s air quality recorded an index of 152—more than three times the acceptable threshold of 50, based on World Health Organization standards. With 26,000 annual deaths due to air pollution, Iran ranks 16th in terms of air pollution-related deaths, according to figures released by the WHO in September. DOE has declared that Iran’s struggle with air pollution costs its people around $30 billion a year, nearly double the $16 billion reported by WHO in 2014.

Every year with the drop in temperature in winter, a phenomenon known as temperature inversion occurs during which cold air underpins warm air at higher altitude, leading to the entrapment of air pollutants in the city, which causes heavy smog. The parliament has only belatedly started reviewing the 35-article Clean Air Bill, after letting it gather dust for nearly two years. Unfortunately, progress remains slow. The bill singles out inefficient vehicles, substandard fuels, industrial activities and dust storms as the major sources of air pollution in the country.

Drawn up by DOE in cooperation with other bodies, the bill proposes more frequent technical inspections of private vehicles. While the current law stipulates technical inspection of all vehicles once every five years, DOE is pushing for biennial checks. The department insists that government vehicles should also be subjected to annual inspections. The government has banned the production of highly-polluting, carburetor-equipped motorcycles from September and is urging people to opt for eco-friendly electric ones. The administration has been distributing Euro-4 gasoline in major cities for months and has ordered automakers to make their products comply with the standard. Experts say the three main sources of air pollution in Iran are motorcycle carburetors (a device that blends air and fuel in the engine), diesel cars without filters and gasoline gas guzzlers. They say if 10% of the highly-polluting clunkers are removed from the streets, it will help reduce vehicular pollution by 48%.

Read the full article @ Financial Tribune

Saturday, December 24, 2016

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Air Pollution Crisis in Ulaanbaatar


If you think air pollution in China has been bad, just look at Mongolia. Levels of particulate matter in the air have risen to almost 80 times the recommended safety level set by the World Health Organisation – and five times worse than Beijing during the past week’s bout with the worst smog of the year.

Mongolian power plants working overtime during the frigid winter belch plumes of soot into the atmosphere, while acrid smoke from coal fires shrouds the shantytowns of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, in a brown fog. Angry residents planned a protest, organised on social media, on Monday (Dec 26). The level of PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, in the air as measured hourly peaked at 1,985 microgrammes a cubic meter on Dec 16 in the capital’s Bayankhoshuu district, according to data posted by government website agaar.mn. The daily average settled at 1,071 microgrammes that day. The World Health Organisation recommends PM2.5 exposure of no more than 25 micrograms over 24 hours. Mongolia’s contracting economic growth and a widening budget gap have left authorities few resources to fight the dangerous smog.

One thing the government has done is cut the nighttime electricity tariff by 50 per cent to encourage more residents to heat their homes with electric heaters instead of raw coal or other flammable material that is often toxic. On Wednesday, Defence Minister Bat-Erdene Badmaanyambuu announced that a 50-bed wing of Ulaanbaatar’s military hospital will open up for children with pneumonia, as city hospitals were filled to capacity, according to a statement on the government’s website. Public anger over the government’s handling of pollution has been growing on social media, where residents share pictures of the smog, encourage methods of protection and call on the government to do more to protect citizens. The air pollution protest next week was being organised for Sukhbaatar Square, the capital’s central plaza. A crowdfunding campaign to purchase 100 air purifiers for hospitals and schools raised almost US$1,400 (S$2,030) in four days.

A 2013 study by Canada’s Simon Fraser University concluded that 10 percent of deaths in Ulaanbaatar were related to complications from air pollution. Neither the ministers for foreign affairs nor the environment replied to requests for comment. A longer-term plan to convert areas known as ger districts, where hundreds of thousands of people live in makeshift housing including tents, into apartment complexes has been stymied by an economic crisis that has pushed the government to seek economic lifelines from partners including the International Monetary Fund and China.


Read the full article @ Today Online

Read more on air pollution in Ulaanbaatar 

How Bad Air Came Back to Indian Cities



@ TIME

More information on sources, emissions, pollution contributions, and forecasts @ http://www.indiaairquality.info 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Karnataka Government Asks Farmers to Stop Burning Sugarcane Trash

As part of its smoke-management strategy, the Karnataka government has issued a diktat to farmers: Stop burning sugarcane thrash in the fields. The move comes in the backdrop of the recent Delhi smog which was fuelled by the burning of paddy straw in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. In fact, the soaring pollution levels and falling visibility levels in the National Capital Region had not only set alarm bells ringing a fortnight ago but also triggered a blame game between the Delhi government, the neighbouring states and the Centre. The practice of burning sugarcane residue is rampant in at least ten districts across Karnataka.

Taking a cue from the Delhi episode, Karnataka has got into a prevention mode. Agriculture minister C Krishna Byregowda has commenced talks with farmers' groups. He has instructed the agriculture department's field units to stop farmers from burning crop residue. An acre of sugarcane produces around 4,000 tonnes of thrash. With sugarcane being grown on 12 lakh hectares in the state, the sugarcane residue is said to be around 50 lakh tonnes.

The agriculture department shot off a letter on December 12 to all chief executive officers of sugarcane-growing districts explaining the emergency. The missive stated: "Burning residue is not just a loss to agriculture but also pollutes environment and causes ailments and deaths. Air pollution in India causes more than 1,500 premature deaths per day; this is more than one death per minute. For 12 lakh acres of sugarcane in Karnataka, it amounts to burning 48 lakh tonnes of valuable organic matter. This will emit tens of thousands of toxic pollutants into the air." The department wants sugarcane farmers to use technology and convert the waste into manure.

Read the full report @ Times of India

EU Approves New Rules For Member States To Drastically Cut Air Pollution


When fully implemented, the Directive will reduce by almost 50% the negative health impacts of air pollution, such as respiratory diseases and premature death, by 2030. Even if air pollutants are invisible killers, people are increasingly aware and concerned at the quality of the air they breathe and the agreement of stricter limits in the NEC is therefore an important achievement. It will also have substantial benefits for the quality of fresh water, soil, and ecosystems and help address the impacts of harmful particles causing climate change like black carbon. The Directive is the central element of the Commission's more comprehensive Clean Air Programme for Europe.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: 'The new European air quality rules are a significant landmark in the fight against this invisible killer that is air pollution. Air pollution kills over 450 000 people in Europe each year. This is more than ten times as many as road traffic accidents. Now it is for the national governments to start with implementation so that people can benefit from cleaner air. We will work with Member States to support them in this challenge for improving the health of EU citizens.'

The role of the Member States in coordinating and implementing the Directive at national level is very important. Member States must transpose the Directive into national legislation by 30 June 2018 and produce a National Air Pollution Control Programme by 2019 setting out measures to ensure that emissions of the five main air pollutants are reduced by the percentages agreed by 2020 and 2030. They must also coordinate with plans in fields such as transport, agriculture, energy and climate. This will require investment, but the costs will be many times outweighed by the benefits in cost savings, particularly on health care and sickness at work. The recently published Commission proposal for an Energy Union Governance Regulation highlights the importance of synergies between air quality and climate and energy policies and the new NEC Directive.

The Commission will work with Member States to ensure sound implementation, for example by setting up a new Clean Air Forum by autumn 2017. This will bring together stakeholders to exchange experience and good practice. The Commission will also facilitate access to EU funding instruments.

Finally, the Directive will pave the way for the ratification of the revised Gothenburg Protocol internationally agreed by Member States in 2012 under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. This will reduce pollution in the Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asian states benefiting both the countries themselves and the EU citizens who are most directly exposed to transboundary pollution.

Read the full article @ Environmental Expert

Delhi High Court Orders Authorities to Map Areas that are Leading Polluters


The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed authorities concerned to map areas in the national capital that are the leading polluters of environment. The court directive came after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) told it that stubble burning in Punjab had put about 9,000 tonnes of PM 2.5 particulate matter in air in October and November, leading to severe pollution in the city.  The CPCB said burning of one tonne of dry paddy straw produces about 0.672 kg of PM 2.5 and 0.747 kg of PM 10, which do not dissipate easily from the environment.

Every year, between October and November, Punjab farmers burn approximately 14 million tonnes of paddy straw, the report added. A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Ashutosh Kumar termed the figures "alarming" and said an effective way to reduce air pollutants was to have more green cover. Stubble burning in Punjab has been blamed for air pollution in several parts of north India, particularly Delhi.

The court said it wanted the figure for the average ambient air quality for Delhi by excluding the figures from Anand Vihar, which recorded the highest air pollution level in Delhi. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) said Anand Vihar's high pollution level was due to the presence of a railway station, an inter-state bus terminal and chaotic traffic. The court directed Delhi Traffic Police to rectify and rationalise the movement of traffic in the area. The court posted the matter for further hearing on January 12, 2017. The court is hearing public interest litigation against increasing air pollution in Delhi.

Read the full article @ Economic Times

Clean Air Asia's Scroecard to Test Northeast India’s Air Pollution Situation

In a move to provide a comprehensive analysis to understand air quality management in a city, the Clean Air Asia (an international nongovernmental organization which works for better air quality and more liveable cities in Asia since 2001) is applying the Clean Air Scorecard Tool (CAST) on three states capitals of the north eastern region and 27 other Indian cities. According to CAA’s India Director Prarthana Borah, the three-year long initiative will be taken up as part of applying the CAST under clean air management programs across 30 Indian cities including these three northeast state capitals: Agartala, Guwahati and Imphal.

 The cities that the CAA has scheduled to explore for the application of the CAST are Aurangabad, Mumbai,Nagpur, Nashik, Varanasi, Pune, Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Jallandhar, Dehradun, Varanasi,Allahabad, Kanpur, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kolkata, Bhubhaneshwar, Cuttack,Patna, Noida, Gwalior, Bhopal, Raipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. “We’re considering small town too because they’ve different issues and the CAST is a comprehensive tool that provides an understanding on the air quality management, identifies gaps in air quality management strategies through objective research and provides core solutions so the people of the city breathe cleaner, better air,” Prarthana said.

Read the full article @ Eastern Mirror

NTPC (India) to Phase Our 25 Year Old Coal Power Plants

In a bid to cut emissions, country’s largest power producer, NTPC lined up investments worth Rs 5000 crore and has decided to replace its over 25 year old power plants totalling 11 GW capacity in the next five years. Informing the gathering about a slew of measures taken by the Government to increase energy efficiency, Goyal said that the Nation has embarked on a mission to reduce India’s carbon footprint by phasing out all inefficient thermal power plants, older than 25 years, with modern energy efficient super critical ones. NTPC has already given the in-principle clearance to replace around 11,000 MW of its old, inefficient thermal power plants. The plants would be replaced in about five years, with an investment of around Rs 50,000 crore, he added.

Read the full article @ IIFL

Friday, December 16, 2016

Researchers Reveal How Chemicals Combined to Form Acidic Haze that Killed 12,000 in 1952 in London


In 1952, a mysterious fog swept through London, blanketing the city in a dense layer of pollutants that killed thousands of people and animals and made it difficult to breathe for days. While the exact cause has long remained unknown, an international team of researchers now says its solved the mystery – and the same air chemistry can be seen today in China and other areas.

In a new analysis, the researchers have pinpointed the chemical processes that combined with natural fog as a result of coal burning, eventually creating a deadly acidic haze that turned the sky completely dark. When the fog first rolled through in December of 1952, residents took little notice; fogs have long enveloped the city. But in the days to follow, visibility was reduced to just three feet in some areas, transportation was shut down, and thousands of people suffered from breathing problems. After the devastating event, it was thought that at least 4,000 people had died, along with thousands of animals, and more than 150,000 people were hospitalized.

'Our results showed that this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning, and occurred initially on natural fog. ‘Another key aspect in the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfate is that it produces acidic particles, which subsequently inhibits this process. 'Natural fog contained larger particles of several tens of micrometers in size, and the acid formed was sufficiently diluted. ‘Evaporation of those fog particles, then left smaller acidic haze particles that covered the city.’ According to the researcher, a similar chemistry frequently occurs in modern China, which hosts 16 of the world’s most polluted cities.

Read the full article @ Daily Mail

Eight-fold Rise in Respiratory Diseases in Varanasi

Toxic particulate pollution in this holy city, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents in parliament and intends to make a Smart City like Kyoto in Japan, has resulted in an eight-fold increase in respiratory diseases among children in the past decade, says a new report.

The report, "Varanasi Chokes", corroborating observations from private doctors, blames abnormally high air pollution levels -- that spiked five times higher than the average this winter for several days -- for the rise in asthma cases. It highlighted an increasing trend in the particulate matter levels in the city along with the rising number of respiratory ailments.

He said that in the past 10 years, he has observed an eight-fold increase in respiratory diseases and noted that the worst affected are children. His clinical case-load has shifted drastically and 80 per cent of his cases are now respiratory related. Jindal's toxic tales were affirmed by pulmonologist R.N. Vajpayee, who runs his clinic in the Lanka area. "One of the major problems in the city is road dust that causes dust storms and high pollution levels during summer," he said, adding that bronchial allergies and chest infections have increased manifold in the past four-five years.

Read the full report @ Indian Express

For modeled air quality forecasts for the 640 districts in India everyday, see @ India Air Quality.Info




See what is happening at the regional scale, which is conducted as part of the all India air pollution forecasting program, hosted @ http://www.indiaairquality.info. The animation below is from a WRF-CAMx simulation conducted @ 0.25x0.25 degree resolution (approximately, 25km x 25km).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Air Pollution in Ahmedabad

In an effort to protect local communities from rising air pollution levels, the AMC is developing a health-based program for outreach around the AQI developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune (IITM) and SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research). AQI systems already operate in key cities in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Mumbai, among others, as well as internationally. The Ahmedabad AQI is scheduled to be formally launched in early 2017.

To develop the program, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Commissioner Shri Mukesh Kumar and Mayor Shri Gautam Shah joined by international public health and air pollution experts from the Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar (IIPH-G), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune (IITM) are holding a two day workshop on “Air Pollution & Health: Laying the Foundation for Effective Use of Ahmedabad’s Air Quality Index” this week.

NRDC and partners, IIPH-G, are working with the AMC on information, education, and communication strategies for the new AQI being launched in Ahmedabad. The combined efforts of government agencies, health professionals, and community leaders can serve to effectively inform the public about rising air pollution health risks in India, and how to take steps to protect community and individual health.

The new Ahmedabad program focuses on air quality alerts and advisories, interagency coordination, public awareness and community outreach, and assessing health impacts and monitoring to strengthen actions. The interagency coordination, alerts, and outreach are modeled on the effective Heat Action Plan by the city that has now scaled to 11 cities in 2016 and potentially leading states in the coming year.

The new program is also designed to integrate health and pollution control strategies with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s “City Clean Air Plan for Ahmedabad”. The GPCB includes a broader comprehensive strategy for emissions controls. The program will also incorporate knowledge exchange components with New Delhi and other cities. Ahmedabad is examining media strategies used in New Delhi on health risk communication and outreach to design its program.

Read the full article @ NRDC

What 2016 Revealed About the Deadly Dangers of Air Pollution


Beijing, London, Mexico City, New Delhi and Paris are among the cities that have drawn attention for their dangerously high air pollution levels in 2016 – but they’re not alone. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that 92% of the world’s urban population now live in cities where the air is toxic.

In India, a study found that 41 Indian cities of more than a million people faced bad air quality on nearly 60% of the total days monitored. Three cities – Gwalior, Varanasi and Allahabad – didn’t even manage one good air quality day.

Over on the African continent, dirty air was identified as the cause of 712,000 premature deaths – that’s more than unsafe water (542,000), childhood malnutrition (275,000) or unsafe sanitation (391,000).

In Europe, it was found that around 85% of the urban population are exposed to harmful fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which was responsible for an estimated 467,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries.

It’s not all bad news though: 74 major Chinese cities have seen the annual average concentrations of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, decrease since 2014 although the Chinese government’s “war on air pollution” has received criticism.

It is often poor, young, old and disadvantaged people who are worst affected by poor air quality. Air pollution is responsible for the deaths of 600,000 children under the age of five every year. Ethnic minorities were more likely to be exposed to high pollution levels than other groups. In London, black, African and Caribbean people were exposed to higher illegal nitrogen dioxide levels (15.3%) because of where they lived, compared to the rest of the city’s population (13.3%).

A number of creative ways of understanding and addressing the air pollution problem were seen throughout 2016. In London, racing pigeons took to the skies equipped with pollution sensors and a Twitter account, to raise awareness of the capital’s illegally dirty air. Amsterdam carried on the bird theme, with smart bird houses that light up to show the air quality status, while offering free Treewifi.

Meanwhile, Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have pledged to remove all diesel vehicles from their streets by 2025, while promoting walking and cycling infrastructure. In Asia, a city certification programme is being piloted to encourage cities to make advances in air quality management.

If anything, 2016 has showed us that poor air quality is a scourge of the developed and developing world alike – and that it requires immediate action. The evidence is clear: we need to clean up our act, to protect human health and reap the benefits of clean air for all.

Read the full article @ Conversation

Drones Take to the Skies to Screen for Methane Emissions


When you think of greenhouse gas emissions, you might be thinking of carbon dioxide—but methane is another significant contributor to warming that’s on the rise. Sources include large grassfires, leaking natural gas wells, natural wetland processes, belching cows, or even farting termites. But the relative contribution of each of these sources to Africa’s methane mix has been hard to track. And that’s important data to have, because the tropics account for 40 percent of global emissions. Last month, researchers report in Geophysical Research Letters, that a drone on a remote tropical island may solve that mystery.

The magic of Ascension Island, located in the middle of the South Atlantic, is the way the air flows, says Rebecca Brownlow, an atmospheric science Ph.D. student at Royal Holloway, University of London. Above about 1.6 kilometers from sea level, the air is coming straight from southeast Africa. Below it is the South Atlantic’s mix. Subtracting that from the African air gives a good sense of how much methane is generated in Africa. And the best means of making those measurements is with a high-flying drone.

“There was no other way to take these samples and to make these measurements,” says Rick Thomas, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Existing methane ground monitoring stations in Africa can’t discern region-wide effects, because they can’t tell how methane would end up mixing in the atmosphere.

Read the full article @ Spectrum