Monday, August 31, 2009

Microsoft Joins the Climate Change Calculations - Project 2 Degrees

While the Microsoft founder Bill Gates and a dozen other scientists have raised eyebrows by submitting patent applications for a technology to reduce the danger of approaching hurricanes by cooling ocean temperatures, the global software firm has created an online tool called Project 2 Degrees for cities across the world to monitor their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The carbon footprint calculations and compensating ones (individuals and firms) footprint by buying appropriate carbon credit is already a known practice. However, the Project 2 Degrees for cities takes on different challenge of inventorizing carbon in the cities - where the the real action is.

A article recently published in Foreign Policy in Focus quotes "Cities Can Save the Earth" (May, 2009). Though the article tends to focus more on the transport oriented protection of the cities, the underlying message is clear - the protection comes from less consumption. Lesser the consumption, lesser the demand for energy, lesser the emissions, lesser the pollution, and sustainable the city and healthy the people. Alternet in April 2009 wrote, "Consumption, not population is our main environmental threat".

Cities account for only 2 percent of the worlds land mass but produce up to 75 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, so became the focus for Project 2 Degrees that is a collaboration with software designers Autodesk and the Clinton Climate Initiative.

Currently 40 cities are participating in this program called "C40 group", with New York and Sydney as pilot studies. Other cities in the program include cities Delhi, Bangkok, Manila, Sao Paulo, etc. Check the best practices section for examples of low carbon applications.

Pollution Due to Trucks - Gross Polluters in Bangkok

As part of the DIESEL program (Developing Integrated Environmental Strategies for Evaluating Land Transport) in Bangkok, a series of surveys were conducted to understand the driver behaviour and driving cycles for the heavy duty vehicles (HDV) and the light duty vehicles (LDV). Following the surveys, approximately 250 vehicles, including a mix of manufacturers, age, and fuel quality, were tested for emission rates for the primary pollutants.

This study was supported and funded mutiple agencies and primarily lead by a teams from the Pollution Control Board in Bangkok and the World Bank in Washington DC, USA. The final report was dessiminated along with summary of emission factors at a workshop in June 2008 in Bangkok.

The emission tests emphasized the importance of going after the gross polluters in the fleet for effective management of the emissions in Bangkok. The three tables below presents an analysis of the emission tests for the three categories light duty vehicles, buses, and trucks. The total emissions (in gm) presented for each of the category represent the sum of all the emission factors measured and used here to estimate the fraction of the gross polluters among the fleet.

For example, for the light duty vehicles, the 24 percent of the vehicles are (9 out of 38) are polluting the most contributing approximately 46 percent of the emissions. A direct abolishment of the gross emitters will result in a faster reduction of fleet emissions.

Similarly, for the buses and trucks, where the average fleet age is high, the percentage of vehicles polluting the most is high. Among the heavy duty trucks, 15 percent of the fleet contributes to approximately 45 percent of the emissions. It is important to note that this is based on the sample used for the emissions testing, which was assumed representative of the ~3.9 million vehicles on road in Bangkok.

The analysis provided a basis for strategy development for in-use old and incoming new vehicles, which is detailed in the DIESEL final report.

Also see

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pollution Due to Trucks - Kolkata & Dhaka

To the relief of the urban dwellers in Kolkata, recent ban of ~15,000 old trucks and buses and phasing out taxis (nearly 7,600), seem to have yielded some clean air results.

The truck ban did create its share of problems in the city, but the results once released are better for the public and the truck operators (for example, new vehicles are more fuel efficient than the old). See the video below.

Authorities in Dhaka announced that Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) admitted nearly 50 percent of the vehicles in the capital do not have fitness certificates. The air pollution due to the black smoke emitted by nearly 150,000 old and junk vehicles causing are causing a serious environmental threat for the Dhaka city dwellers. A recent study estimates 15,000 annual deaths due to urban air pollution in Bangladesh.

While Dhaka banned 3-wheelers and 3-wheel cycles in the past, maybe a replication of phasing out old vehicles might help decrease the number of gross polluters on road.

Also see

Pollution Due to Trucks - Gross Polluters in Delhi

In the SIM 25-2009 working paper, "Photochemistry of Air Pollution in Delhi, India: A Monitoring Based Analysis", the monitoring data from the Indian Tax Office (ITO) station in Delhi, India, (operated by the Central Pollution Control Board) is analyzed to explain the observed trends in the criteria pollutants, PM2.5, NOx, CO, and Ozone.

The analysis of the measurements shows that
  • the diurnal variation of the mixing layer height is very pronounced in Delhi, which effects the night time concentrations. This is very important for the cities like Delhi, where the diesel operated trucks are allowed to pass through the city only at night, and thus enhancing the night time ambient concentrations. However, since the population exposed to these higher concentrations of PM (mostly diesel soot) and other pollutants is lower during the night time, the impacts of the night time emissions are generally less observed.
  • while the passenger travel in the city has grown over the last decade, the importance of the freight transport (via trucks) in the night should not be neglected, since the high concentrations observed during the night tend to linger during the rush hours (mixed with the passenger travel) and beyond (through ~11 AM) and hence increasing the exposure times and related health concerns along the major corridor.
  • In the city, the night time concentration of particulates is a growing concern; the night-time concentrations particularly in the winter and spring seasons are approximately twice the day time levels. All the heavy duty trucks are diesel based with an average age of at least 5 years. Also, the lower mixing heights and poor ventilation in the night, prevents proper dispersion of these pollutants, causing this buildup of pollutants. At the sunrise, the buildup of the pollutants is felt among the rush hour commuters.

Also see

Hindustan Times writes "Mumbai New Pollution Capital"?

On August 24th, 2009, an article titled “Mumbai new pollution capital” was published in the Hindustan Times (HT), on the front page. The title suggests big things and sadly, I was quoted in the article.

The day I came back from trekking in the Zanskar and Ladakh ranges of the Himalayas, I was interviewed by phone for this piece. The article is based on one of my papers in the SIM-air working paper series, No.24 titled “Motorized Passenger Travel in Urban India - Emissions & Co-Benefits Analysis”, which presents the emissions analysis of the motorized “in-city” passenger travel from twenty cities in India, covering the current trends in four modes of transport (passenger cars, motorcycles, 3 wheelers, and buses), estimated energy consumption for the assumed growth patterns, and possible co-benefits of three combined scenarios (public transport, policy reforms, and non-motorized transport).

The 20 cities included in this analysis are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kanpur, Agra, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Jaipur, Surat, Pondicherry, Bhubaneswar, Panaji, Patna, Kochi, Nagpur, and Guwahati.

The paper also discussed the urban passenger travel statistics in India formerly published by the Ministry of Urban Development titled "Transport Strategies for Urban India" in May 2008.

A topic that WAS NOT discussed in the paper is the pollution ranking of the cities. This is the contentious part of the piece published in the Hindustan Times, related to the misunderstanding of the air pollution sources and the information available to the media and the media publishing the titles like “Mumbai new pollution capital” without fully understanding the material in front of them.
  1. The numbers presented in the paper are emissions only and do not translate to the pollution that one observes on the roads or residential areas or industrial zones.
  2. More importantly, the numbers presented in the paper relate only to the passenger travel and the word “pollution” encompasses a whole lot of sources from domestic to long range, which is not covered in the paper. By quoting some numbers based on one source, it is FALSE and UNETHICAL to make up titles like “Mumbai new pollution capital”.
  3. The references in the article are also false. The table quotes the number from the SIM-air working paper series and refers to it as based on CPCB data. The data used in my analysis is from multiple sources (mostly academic) and does not involve CPCB in any form in providing the data. This was clearly mentioned and the sources of the data for various cities is also discussed in the paper, and yet the HT author choose to misquote the references.
Finally, I am based in Delhi and the work presented in SIM-air working paper series is conducted as independent research @ and should not be linked or referred to the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno, USA (and NOT in New York as quoted in the HT article).

I am an affiliate assistant research professor at DRI, but DRI neither supports nor funds the research presented under the SIM-air working paper series, in any official form, which was clearly conveyed to the HT author on phone and by email.

Bottom line is that the pollution awareness and the seriousness of the multiple air pollution sources is necessary and the media can help with the public awareness in a lot of ways, but NOT by misinforming the public using partial information and shifting priorities by ranking pollution among various cities.

Air Pollution Alerts - August 30th, 2009

News & Information; Every Sunday (Last on August 23, 2009)

Mother Nature Network, August 29th, 2009
Destination of the Week: Hong Kong.
Cosmopolitan Asian city offers green attractions, but smog remains a problem.

Granta Magazine, August 29th, 2009
Capital Gains - Story of Delhi, India.

Wall Street Journal, August 28th, 2009
Technology Can Fight Global Warming.

Economic Times, August 28th, 2009
Auto industry demand scrappage incentives in India.

BBC, August 27th, 2009
Hijacked by climate change?

China Dialogue, August 27th, 2009
Do we know change when we see it?

Caijing, China, August 26th, 2009
Experts reveal a new and thus far ignored culprit in China's struggle against air pollution.

Business Standard (India), August 25th, 2009
Mysore gets boost under JNNURM.

Seeking Alpha, August 25th, 2009
Emerging Economies: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Go Kunming, August 25th, 2009
Kunming air quality ranks number two among Chinese cities.

EuroActive, August 25th, 2009
Europe's air quality improving, data shows.

EuroActive, August 25th, 2009
Electric cars: On the road to greener transport?

Economic Times, August 24th, 2009
China's pressing pollution problem.

Australia, August 22nd, 2009
Implications of climate change for Australia's World Heritage properties.

Sydney Morning Herald, August 22nd, 2009
Power plant will put lives at risk.

Derry Journal, August 21st, 2009
City pollution could worsen swine flu.

The News (Pakistan), August 21st, 2009
Pollution on the rise in Lahore City.

Maimi Herald, August 19th, 2009
No more loopholes for King Coal.

World Streets, August 12th, 2009
John Whitelegg on the Global Transport Challenge.

China Daily, August 4th, 2009
Protests help clear the air.

Washington Post, August 1st, 2009
When It Comes to Being Green, Cash for Clunkers Is a Lemon.

Malaysia Star, August 1st, 2009
Building cities which matter to the people.

India Express, July 31st, 2009
Chennai Metro: Will imitating Delhi help?

In Depth News, July 30th, 2009
Polluters Must Inform Citizens.

Telegraph, July 30th, 2009
What can China do about climate change?

AFP, July 30th, 2009
Beijing closing coal plants in environmental move.

Examiner, July 29th, 2009
We can't pin our ozone problems on China.

Reuters, July 29th, 2009
World Bank arm sees China as Africa energy partner.

Urban Vision, July 29th, 2009
Rethinking urban mobility.

India Press Information Bureau, July 29th, 2009
Impact of rising number of vehicles on environment.

The New Nation, July 29th, 2009
Old vehicles causing serious environ threat to Dhaka.

EEA, July 29th, 2009
Ground-level ozone pollution has become a "global air pollution problem".

Earth Times, July 28th, 2009
Cutting Transportation Emissions is 'Critical' to Achieving Goals of House-Passed Climate Bill.

World Watch Institute, July 28th, 2009
World Bank Initiates Carbon Footprint Analysis.

Green Peace, July 28th, 2009
Polluting power: ranking China's power companies.

Ceylon Daily News, July 28th, 2009
Learn from the past to develop the future.

Business Standard, July 27th, 2009
India to host environment friendly vehicles conference in November, 2009.

WBCSD, July 27th, 2009
The planet's 2 biggest emitters open new round of climate talks.

Express, India, July 27th, 2009
Choke factor: 425 new vehicles every day in Hyderabad, India.

WBCSD, July 24th, 2009
Cleaner shipping rules to hit fuel oil market.

Financial Times, July 23rd, 2009
India widens climate rift with west.

Dehli Struggle, July 23rd, 2009
Why delhi’s buses are so deadly: an economic analysis.

WBCSD, July 22nd, 2009
Companies Need to Better Understand Emissions, Impacts from Global Supply Chains.

WBCSD, July 15th, 2009
UK says low carbon sector will grow in recession.

Foreign Policy in Focus, May, 2009
Cities Can Save Earth.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back from Trekking in Zanskar - Darcha to Lamayuru

Photos from the trek are finally Up. October 18th, 2009.


Greetings from Delhi. Hope all is well and enjoying the last days of the summer.

I have been away for a month, trekking through the Zanskar and Ladakh ranges of the Himalayas, starting in Manali and ending in Leh. The foot journey started at Darcha, covering ~350 km over 22 days and ending at the Lamayuru Monastery (a few hours drive east of Kargil). En route, we crossed 11 passes and half the foot distance was along the Zanskar river, passing some very beautiful villages, otherwise a vast land of mountains and full of stars at night.

The most notable pass was the first on the 5th day called "Shingo La" at an altitude of 5050m. This is also the birth place of the Zanskar river. The challenging part of this leg was a river crossing for which we had to be on top of glacier before 10 AM to avoid the glacier melts and the rush of the river. I did take a patel shot standing on top of the glacier, right after which I slipped a few meters towards the river. I ended up sitting there for a few seconds and started climbing again following the expert guidance from Puja. Walking on the glacier knowing that the river is flowing beneath it was exhilarating.

The scenery changes in this region every 2 hours and with every range. Every pass has its beauty trapped in the valley. The gorges with at least 500m walls of the mountains are spectacular. Though the last gorge to the Lamayuru monastery was dry, dusty, and long, which was not fun. My picture attached is from the top of the "Hanuma La" pass at 4800m, where all the eye can see was the ranges of mountains to come. The peak to the right hand side is the "Shinge La" pass, meaning "Lion's Breath" at 5230m (highest on the trek), which we climbed two days later on the Indian independence day (looks very close in the picture).

A noteworthy town after the "Hanuma La" pass is "Lingshed". The monastery is well known and old. We reached this village two days prior to the arrival of His Holiness Dalai Lama. If we had any idea of his coming, we would have planned better. Along the passes, we saw entire villages packed and moving to Lingshed to see His Holiness. Couple of well wishers were carrying sofa's on there backs, hoping that the Dalai Lama might sit on it.

The end of the journey from Lamayuru to Leh was a four hour drive along the Sindhu river. We are still sorting through the 1000 odd pictures and will post a selected bunch in the coming weeks.

One objective that we did not achieve is the weight loss. We had a fantastic support staff and the cook from Nepal even managed to bake a cake in the middle of nowhere. The menu was simple, but included pakoras for evening snacks and bed tea in the tent :-)

As beautiful a trek this has been, the sad part is the construction. There is a road being built along the sections of the trek. This will change the trek route, now supported by the horses and donkeys, to the one supported by the horse power of the jeeps and vans. At the current rate, may be in 5-10 years. On our second last pass "Sirsir La", as we reached the top of the pass, we saw a bulldozer cutting through the other side :-(

We had a fantastic time along the trek, besides complaining about waking up early and having to clear the tent in the cold. We do hope that some of you will have a chance to see this part of the world before the cars and trucks outrun them.