Monday, August 13, 2012

Against Public Interest - Undermining BRT in Delhi, India

From Economic Political Weekly, August, 2012

One of the objectives of the 2006 National Urban Transport Policy was to “encourage greater use of public transport”. Yet, at times governments and even the judiciary seem to go out of their way to infl ict injury on the few initiatives that are taken to facilitate public transport.

Take the case of the 5.8 km Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridor in New Delhi. This is a project that was more than a decade in the making and went through many layers of discussion and assessment before the first stretch was made operational in 2008. For reasons that remain unknown and can only be said to be the voice of the car lobby at work, two years ago a section of the media ignored the benefi ts to those who travelled by bus and attacked the project in a crude fashion claiming that it would slow vehicle movement in the project stretch. The Delhi government chose not to respond purposively to this senseless and high voltage attack on the BRT and instead put its expansion on hold. Now, in a strange decision the Delhi High Court first admitted a public interest litigation (PIL) against the BRT and then, on the basis of a poorly conducted study, has passed interim orders allowing private vehicles to ply on the dedicated bus lanes. What hope then for public transport in the country if these are the developments in the capital?

By all accounts the corridor is popular among users of public transport – who constitute, according to various studies, more than half of all road users – since it enables them to travel faster and more safely through dedicated lanes. It is not surprising that in these selfi sh times the relatively well-off in their cars have taken umbrage at their less-fortunate fellow citizens being able to travel smoothly in buses.

If it was bad enough that the court admitted a PIL petition on the BRT, what was worse was its ready acceptance of what is by any standard a very weak study of the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI). The CRRI evaluation of the Delhi bus corridor, which was commissioned by the Delhi High Court, was either carelessly prepared or was designed and executed to come up with conclusions favouring the arguments of the petitioner.

The CRRI study is so full of holes that it is diffi cult to believe that this is the work of a research institution. For instance, in its comparison of traffic movement in the BRT corridor with three other
arteries in Delhi, the agency did not care to see that it had to isolate the variable studied from all other aspects of traffi c movement.

Instead of studying a single variable, it compared a bunch of interrelated factors – vehicle speeds (of buses and cars), vehicle movement and emissions. What is more, the CRRI ignored the fact that bus occupancy rates vary during the day much more than of cars, and went ahead and used “average” occupancy rates to measure the volume of (people) movement – thereby tipping the comparison in favour of cars. Most egregious was the use of average incomes of different kinds of road users to measure the value of time lost/gained on the BRT. With such an approach, the value of the time lost by one wealthy occupant of a slowing BMW could well exceed the value of the time gained by a bus full of low and middle-income users. Are we or are we not equal citizens? And, yet, the court on the basis of this “study” gave a direction last month to let private vehicles travel on the BRT until it gave its fi nal orders.

Concerns have also been expressed about the placement of the bus lanes in the centre, which, it has been claimed, has made it diffi cult for commuters to cross busy roads. But this too is off the mark, for placing the bus lanes in the centre ensures that commuters have equal access to either side of the road when they alight or disembark, something that would not have been possible if the BRT lanes had been placed on the left.

The BRT project is in line with urban transport programmes elsewhere in the world that strive for greater effi ciency and use by a larger number of commuters. It is no one’s argument that the BRT in Delhi is perfect. But if the court, in its fi nal orders, were to rely on a single poorly conducted study and allow private vehicles to use what are supposed to be lanes dedicated for rapid movement of buses, it will be striking a serious blow against public transport.

If experiments like the Delhi BRT are destroyed at the very beginning, a wrong message would be sent to all the cities that are struggling to provide better public transport facilities.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Air Pollution News & Alerts - August 12th, 2012

The Hindu, August 12th, 2012
Footpaths maketh a city - Story of Chennai.

Science Daily, August 12th, 2012
Urban Sun Corridor 4 Degrees Warmer?

Science Daily, August 10th, 2012
50-Year Decline Found in Some Los Angeles Vehicle-Related Pollutants.

Science Daily, August 9th, 2012
New Way to Track Formaldehyde.

Science Daily, August 8th, 2012
New Atmospheric Compound Tied to Climate Change, Human Health.

Common Dreams, August 8th, 2012
NOAA: July Was Hottest Month Ever in US.

The National, August 7th, 2012
Why India's blackout illuminates the path to energy security.

China Daily, August 7th, 2012
Pollution fee is unfair to tourists.

The Guardian, August 3rd, 2012
The EU should stand firm on its scheme to limit aviation emissions.

Common Dreams, August 3rd, 2012
Clean Energy Programs 'Under Siege' by Fossil Fuel Giants.

EU News, August 3rd, 2012
Global air pollution disaster on the cards if emissions aren't dramatically slashed.

Environmental Expert, August 2nd, 2012
Health and climate benefits by control of methane and black carbon.

Voice of America, August 2nd, 2012
Hong Kong Endures Worst Smog in Two Years.

Environmental News Network, August 2nd, 2012
World Wide Air Pollution in the Future.

Bangkok Post, August 2nd, 2012
Hong Kong chokes under 'worst' air pollution.

The Wall Street Journal, August 1st, 2012
Power Supply Restored in India.

The Wall Street Journal, August 1st, 2012
1.2 Billion Indians Hit by Leadership Outage.

The Wall Street Journal, August 1st, 2012
Fixes for a Crippled Power Sector.

The Washington Post, August 1st, 2012
In India, although power is restored, doubts remain.

DNA India, August 1st, 2012
Green Ministry not responsible for power outage: Jayanthi Natarajan.

Common Dreams, July 31st, 2012
600 Million without Power as India Suffers Major Blackout.

The Wall Street Journal, July 31st, 2012
India's Power Network Breaks Down.

Science Daily, July 31st, 2012
Air Pollution Worsening Worldwide: Cut Emissions Further, Experts Urge.

BBC, July 31st, 2012
Ten interesting things about India power.

Reuters, July 30th, 2012"Greyjing"? Air pollution fouls Beijing's name.

New York Times, July 30th, 2012
Millions Without Power in North India, Water May Be Next.

Financial Express, July 28th, 2012
Metro rail as urban transport.

China Daily, July 27th, 2012
China's auto sales expected to hit 20m in 2012.

Environmental Technology, July 27th, 2012
Leading nations buy time on climate change.

CSE, July 26th, 2012
Kathmandu Dialogue Air Quality and Transportation Challenge in South Asia: An Agenda for Action.

C40 Blog, July 26th, 2012
C40 Cities to Collaborate with a New Coalition of Countries to Reduce Global Methane Emissions.

Xinhua Net, July 26th, 2012
China's shipping industry in recession amid slowing economy.

China Daily, July 26th, 2012
Oil demand declines in June for first time in three years.

Xinhua Net, July 26th, 2012
China's coal barons struggle amid falling coal prices.

China Dialogue, July 25th, 2012
Bill McKibben: China, think before you frack.

Times of India, July 25th, 2012
CRRI explained why Ahmedabad BRT works.

Climate Progress, July 25th, 2012
In China’s Pollution Struggles, Information Is King.

National Geography, July 24th, 2012
Coal Power Loses Its Luster in India as Costs Rise.

Reuters, July 24th, 2012
Cut air pollution, buy time to slow climate change.

Phys.Org, July 24th, 2012
Reducing traffic at 2008 Olympics yielded large cut in CO2.

Climate Progress, July 24th, 2012
Air Pollution In London May Hurt Olympic Athletes, Says Leading Sports Medicine Doctor.

Science Daily, July 24th, 2012
Reducing Traffic at 2008 Olympics Yielded Large Cut in CO2.

New Zealand Herald, July 24th, 2012
Pollution kills 1170 a year.

Indian Express, July 24th, 2012
Cooking, too, adds to air pollutants in city.

New Security Beat, July 23rd, 2012
In Mongolia, Climate Change and Mining Boom Threaten National Identity.

Examiner, July 23rd, 2012
Will London air sicken Olympic athletes?

New Scientist, July 22nd, 2012
Ethanol levels in the air over US cities on the rise.

All Africa, July 20th, 2012
Rwanda: Concerns Arise Over Pollution From Old Imported Vehicles.

NY Times, July 20th, 2012
US E.P.A. to Consider Relaxing an Air Pollution Rule.

International Herald Tribune, July 19th, 2012
A Beijing Family’s Holiday From Pollution.

Forbes, June 19th, 2012
That Scientific Global Warming Consensus…Not!

Shanghai Daily, July 19th, 2012
Antipollution plan to combat high PM2.5 in clean benchmark area.

Climate Spectator, July 18th, 2012
A healthy climate change battle.

Global Times, July 18th, 2012
No independent air quality data ban in China.

Xinhua Net, July 17th, 2012
China's motor vehicles top 233 million.

Power Engineering, July 17th, 2012
Coal-fired power plants in Chile will be upgraded by Fuel Tech.

Financial Times, July 17th, 2012
Is China’s electricity data worth any of your precious attention?

China Daily, July 14th, 2012
Air quality below WHO standards.

Shanghai Daily, July 12th, 2012
More PM2.5 stations will be set up in city.

Xinhua Net, July 11th, 2012
Fuel price drop has little impact on cost of living.

Deccan Herald, July 9th, 2012
Electricity outage boon for residents after tariff hike.

Ottawa Citizen, July 2nd, 2012
Why a summer without power cuts is bad news.

National Geography, June 18th, 2012
Clean Cookstoves Must Be Rethought so They Actually Get Used in Developing World.

Financial Times, May 18th, 2012
A contrarian view of China’s power data.

The Economist, May 4th, 2012
The limits of plug-and-play development.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Air pollution: Should it Stop You Exercising?

An article from the Guardian, August 5th, 2012

The people involved with the Olympics are determined to make athletes of us all. Bradley Wiggins's win has inspired fans to get on their bikes; meanwhile Transport for London is encouraging passengers to walk between venues during the Games. But before we start doing Usain Bolt impressions through the city, scientists and campaigners are suggesting that we ought to think about the quality of air we are inhaling first.

Days before the opening ceremony, there were warnings that Olympic athletes could underperform, and even risk their health, because of London's summer smog. Although there have been several smogs already this year, last week's was the worst since 2006, according to Simon Birkett from campaigning group Clean Air in London. Pollution has caused problems at the Olympics before – at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Steve Ovett blamed air pollution when he collapsed after the 800m final, with exercise- induced asthma. China used cloud seeding to clear the air before Beijing.

Luckily, good old British weather – in the form of last week's rain and wind – helped to dispel the smog, which builds in still conditions. But Birkett warns it could be back in time for the closing ceremony if the sun returns as forecast.

Smog, explains Dr Keith Prowse, medical adviser for the British Lung Foundation, is made of a particularly high concentration of fumes, particles and ground-level ozone. At high levels, this causes irritation to the respiratory tract, from the nose down to the lungs, leading to coughing, wheeziness or breathlessness. Of the particles in smog, the smallest are thought to do most harm, as they can be inhaled deepest into the lungs, although all cause problems.

It is not just athletes who are at risk. London's air is the worst in the UK – and in Europe, according to campaigners. The UK is also facing fines over the levels of pollution in 12 cities and urban areas (including Birkenhead and South Wales), which have high levels of exhaust emissions. Birkett says, exposure to air pollution is the biggest public health risk after smoking in the UK; government figures suggest 29,000 deaths a year could be attributed to it.

On high-pollution days, the advice for older people and those with lung problems is to reduce strenuous physical exercise. But even healthy people can experience discomfort such as sore eyes, a cough or sore throat, and are warned to consider decreasing outdoor exercise if they do. On days with very high levels of pollution – such as we experienced last month – everyone is advised to cut down their physical exertions.

So is this the excuse we have been looking for to stay on the sofa instead of pounding the streets? Definitely not, says Prowse. "The health benefits of exercise are generally greater than the health risks posed by pollution, certainly at normal UK levels. Most people in this country are unlikely to be affected by pollution when exercising."

"The most important thing is that people take note if they start to feel breathless or wheezy, or if they are coughing more during periods of high pollution. In these instances, they should visit a doctor in case it is the result of any undiagnosed condition, and minimise the impact of pollution on their bodies."

Air-quality expert Dr Gary Fuller, of King's College London, says he would encourage joggers, cyclists and walkers to "be a bit smarter and think about where they are doing their exercise", for instance choosing quieter routes away from heavy traffic. "If you are out taking exercise in an urban area, then it's sensible to think about the risks around you. You should think about minimising your exposure to air pollution," he says. Fuller and his colleagues have created a free app that allows people in London to check real-time air pollution levels where they are. Defra's website also provides air-quality readings and advice on when it is necessary to be careful.

Prowse says exercising in an air-conditioned gym or sports hall can help if you stay inside long enough for your breathing to return to normal. Avoid mid- to late-afternoon exercise as this is when ground-level ozone is highest. On really bad days, this is true for those living in rural areas too. Commuting before or after rush hour can help cyclists, joggers and walkers.

But there is no need to buy a mask because there is little evidence they work, according to Prowse. "Some people report that they make breathing and exercise more difficult. A lot of masks cannot filter out many of the smallest particles that are thought to cause the greatest harm."

But as Birkett points out, it's just as important that we all try to improve air quality, by reducing our own emissions and lobbying the government to take action. "People need the government to stop looking for loopholes to avoid complying with the law. Instead they should be proposing bold solutions such as banning the oldest diesel vehicles, as Germany has done." That, he says, really would be a breath of fresh air.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Lights Out in India - Power Grid Failure

News articles covering the story

BBC, July 31st, 2012
Ten interesting things about India power.

The Wall Street Journal, August 1st, 2012
Power Supply Restored in India.

The Wall Street Journal, August 1st, 2012
1.2 Billion Indians Hit by Leadership Outage.

The Wall Street Journal, August 1st, 2012
Fixes for a Crippled Power Sector.

The Wall Street Journal, July 31st, 2012
India's Power Network Breaks Down.

DNA India, August 1st, 2012
Green Ministry not responsible for power outage: Jayanthi Natarajan.

Common Dreams, July 31st, 2012
600 Million without Power as India Suffers Major Blackout.

The Washington Post, August 1st, 2012
In India, although power is restored, doubts remain.

The National, August 7th, 2012
Why India's blackout illuminates the path to energy security.

Ten Things About Power in India (BBC)

As India copes with a massive power breakdown for a second successive day, some interesting facts about the country's power situation to chew on:
  • India has an installed capacity of more than 170,000 megawatts, up from a mere 1,362 megawatts at the time of Independence in 1947
  • The majority (around 60%) is generated from coal and lignite, while just under a quarter (about 22%) is hydro-electric
  • Despite its soaring energy needs, India has one of the lowest per capita rates of consumption of power in the world - 734 units as compared to a world average of 2,429 units. This is nothing compared with say, Canada, (18,347 units) and the US (13,647 units). China's per capita consumption (2,456 units) is more than three times that of India.
  • The low per capita consumption is despite the fact that the power sector has been growing at more than 7% every year.
  • Homes and farms are consuming more power today than industries and businesses. Industrial consumption has actually dropped from 61.6% in 1970-71 to 38% in 2008-2009.
  • India has suffered consistent power shortages since Independence in 1947. Peak demand shortage is more than 10%, whereas the overall energy shortage is more than 7%.
  • Sixty-five years after Independence, only nine states - Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa, Delhi, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu - of 28 have been officially declared totally electrified.
  • India remains perennially energy starved despite 15% or more of federal funds being allocated to the power sector. Bankrupt state-run electricity boards, an acute shortage of coal, skewed subsidises which end up benefiting rich farmers, power theft, and under-performing private distribution agencies are to blame, say experts. There is no shortage of money, and the problem, as the Planning Commission admits, is more "in the delivery process [than] in the system".
  • Transmission and distribution losses have leapt from 22% in 1995-96 to about 25.6% in 2009-2010. The states with the worst losses are Indian-administered Kashmir, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The best performers: Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • India's first power generation company was the private Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) started in 1899. The first diesel power plant was set up in Delhi in 1905. The first hydro-electric power station was set up in Mysore in 1902. At the time of Independence, about 60% of India's power sector was privately owned. Today, about 80% of the installed capacity is in the hands of the government. Private companies own 12% of the capacity.

Air Pollution Worsening Worldwide

An article from Science Daily, July 31st, 2012.

Most of the world's population will be subject to degraded air quality in 2050 if human-made emissions continue as usual. In this 'business-as-usual' scenario, the average world citizen 40 years from now will experience similar air pollution to that of today's average East Asian citizen. These conclusions are those of a study published August 1 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an Open Access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Air pollution is a major health risk that may worsen with increasing industrial activity. At present, urban outdoor air pollution causes 1.3 million estimated deaths per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation [1].

"Strong actions and further effective legislation are essential to avoid the drastic deterioration of air quality, which can have severe effects on human health," concludes the team of scientists, led by Andrea Pozzer of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy (now at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Germany), in the new paper.

The researchers studied the impact of human-made emissions on air quality, assuming past emission trends continue and no additional climate change and air pollution reduction measures (beyond what is in place since 2005) are implemented. They point out that, while pessimistic, the global emissions trends indicate such continuation.

"At present the post-Kyoto climate negotiations are progressing slowly, and it is unclear how air quality policies will develop globally," explains co-author Greet Janssens-Maenhout of the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Italy. "In regions with economic growth, it might be less effective to implement emission-reduction measures due to strong growth in activities in particular sectors; in countries suffering from the economic downturn, implementing expensive air-quality measures could prove difficult in coming years," she adds.

"We show that further legislation to control and reduce human-made emissions is needed, in particular for eastern China and northern India, to avoid hot-spots of elevated air pollution," says Pozzer. Combined with the fact that these are regions of high population density, elevated air pollution here would mean that air quality would worsen significantly for the average world citizen in 2050.

Air pollution would also increase in Europe and North America, but to a much lesser extent than in Asia, due to the effect of mitigation policies that have been in place for over two decades.
Pozzer and his colleagues estimated air quality in 2005, 2010, 2025 and 2050 using an atmospheric chemistry model. "The model uses basic mathematical formulation to predict the meteorology and the chemical composition of the atmosphere," Pozzer explains. "In practice, it is a software used to forecast -- or hindcast, for past years -- the status of the atmosphere at specific times."

The results show that in 2025 and 2050, under the business-as-usual scenario studied, East Asia will be exposed to high levels of pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) [2]. Northern India and the Arabian Gulf region, on the other hand, will suffer a marked increase in ozone levels.

The analysis now published is the first to include all five major air pollutants know to negatively impact human health: PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. The scientists considered pollutants released through human activity, as well as those occurring naturally such as desert dust, sea spray, or volcanic emissions.

Taking all pollutants into account, eastern China, northern India, the Middle East, and North Africa are projected to have the world's poorest air quality in the future. In the latter locations this is due to a combination of natural desert dust and man-induced ozone. The effect of anthropogenic pollution emissions are predicted to be most harmful in East and South Asia, where air pollution is projected to triple compared to current levels.

The study aimed to compare the influence of human-made emissions on air quality in different regions, and show how no-further legislation to reduce emissions can result in drastic deterioration of air quality worldwide compared to the present day situation.

[1] World Health Organisation (WHO) 'Air quality and health' fact sheet (September 2011)
[2] PM2.5 refers to pollutant particles less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic size, or about a quarter of the size of a cloud droplet. According to the WHO, "PM affects more people than any other pollutant." PM2.5 is more dangerous than particulate matter of larger size because these particles can reach the smallest of airways and interfere with gas exchange in the lungs.

Beijing Now Called "Greyjing"?

An article published in Reuters, July 30th, 2012.

With its parks, centuries-old palaces, history and culture, Beijing should be one of the more pleasant capitals of the world. Instead, it's considered among the worst to live in because of chronic air pollution.

Lung cancer rates are rising among the 20 million residents of China's capital, health officials say. For many multinational companies, Beijing is considered a hardship posting and, despite the extra allowances that classification brings, some executives are leaving.

On some days, Beijing is enveloped in a brownish-grey smog, so thick it gets indoors, stings the eyes and darkens the sky in the middle of the day.

Smoke from factories and heating plants, winds blowing in from the Gobi Desert and fumes from millions of vehicles can combine to blanket the city in this pungent shroud for days. English-speaking residents sometimes call the city "Greyjing" or "Beige-jing".

Some foreigners plan their daily events around the U.S. Embassy's Twitter feed on Beijing's air quality (, which has hourly posts.

"On a bad day, you're going to change your plans," said American Chauvon Venick, who moved to Beijing from Los Angeles with her lawyer husband and young daughter earlier this year.

"You wake up, look outside and it's a great day, you skip whatever you're going to do and go outside to enjoy it. If it's a really bad day, maybe we'll go and do something inside.

"I'm not going to have her out and about," Venick added, referring to her daughter.

While the embassy's air quality index has been consistently in the "unhealthy" range around 170 in the past week, the winter months can be especially bad as residents crank up the heating.

One day in early December, Beijing's smog was so severe it forced the main airport to shut for several hours, and the U.S. Embassy's index reached its ceiling with a reading of 500, meaning the air was hazardous to human health.

Last year, the state-run China Daily quoted a Beijing health official as saying the lung cancer rate in the city had increased by 60 percent during the past decade, even though the smoking rate during the period had not seen an apparent rise.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's liveability index this year ranked Beijing's pollution at 4.5, with 5 being the worst. Out of 70 cities surveyed, the only ones rated worse were Mumbai, New Delhi, Karachi, Dakar, Dhaka and Cairo.


Beijing has a lot going for it, aside from being capital of the world's second-largest economy and home to UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Summer Palace and world-famous cuisine.
But the pollution has reached such levels it can be hard convincing foreign executives to move to the city.

"We can't get people to move here. Pollution is a big worry, especially if you have children," said a Beijing-based executive for a large Western financial services firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Beijing is considered a hardship posting nobody wants."

Those taking advantage include companies that make air purifiers, which report booming business and count big foreign firms among their clients.

"Sales last year were three times the average of what we had seen in previous years," said Zheng Hui, a sales consultant for Swiss company IQ Air, which entered the Chinese market more than five years ago.

Chinese authorities made an all-out effort to improve air quality during the 2008 Summer Olympics, curtailing vehicle movements and relocating outdated, polluting factories.

The relief was temporary, as curbs on factories were relaxed and car sales continued to rocket.

It is still a sensitive issue, especially as Beijing tries to position itself as a global business hub.

Last month, a senior Chinese official demanded foreign embassies stop issuing air pollution readings, saying it was against the law and diplomatic conventions, in pointed criticism of the U.S. Embassy index.

The Beijing authorities say they are well aware of the air pollution problem.

"We are trying to improve air quality. It is not only to attract investment from abroad; we are also doing it for the health of all Beijingers," an official at Beijing's environmental protection bureau told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Elsewhere in China, there have been protests in recent weeks over threats to the environment.
On Saturday, officials cancelled an industrial waste pipeline project after anti-pollution demonstrators occupied a government office in eastern China, destroying computers and overturning cars.

Earlier this month, thousands took to the streets in Sichuan province's Shifang town to protest against a $1.6 billion copper refinery they feared would poison their families. The city government swiftly called off the project.


For expatriates in Beijing, especially from the West, air pollution is not the only challenge.
English is not widely spoken, public transport is often crowded, food safety is a worry and tight controls on the Internet mean websites like Facebook and Twitter are hard to access.

"For expat staff themselves looking to move here, the concerns they invariably express to me are: first and foremost safety of consumables and/or prevalence of fake and adulterated groceries, drinking water, pet food and so on, and then the high fees associated with international schools. Pollution is mentioned, but only in passing," said a consultant who advises foreign businesses operating in China.

"However, that said, a number of clients and friends of mine are now angling to leave China after having been here a few years, and a major factor in that desire is pollution," added the consultant, who asked not to be identified.

Last week, Charlie Custer, Beijing-based editor-in-chief of the respected ChinaGeeks blog, announced he and his wife were leaving for the United States, partly because of the pollution.

"I like breathing," he wrote. "There's really nothing forcing me to live in Beijing. It is, in many ways, a wonderful city, and it's probably the most fascinating, exciting place I have ever lived. However, it was also killing me.

"Obviously there are millions of families in Beijing, and they deal. Certainly, we could deal too. But the question I couldn't stop asking myself was, why should we?"
It is hard to gauge exactly how many foreigners are leaving due to pollution as there are no official numbers.

Yet the city and China generally remains an attractive place to live for many, especially as its economy booms despite turmoil in Europe and a slow recovery in the United States.

"Beijing is obviously more polluted and it's not ideal, but senior executives or directors move jobs because of their career," said Cater Yang, managing director for China at global placement agency Robert Walters. "The China experience will make their career shine more."

The people with some of the best knowledge about expatriate movements -- moving companies -- say Beijing keeps drawing in foreigners.

"China's certainly a popular destination," said Nick Dobson, Corporate Services Manager North China for Crown Relocations.

"We're busier," he added. "The rental market continues to rise, and the demand for quality expat housing is outrageous."

Air Pollution in Hong Kong - Worst in Two Years (VoA)

Link to the post

Hong Kong residents have endured the city's worst smog in more than two years, as a typhoon far to the east caused a build up of bad air that obscured the international financial center's famous skyline.

Thursday's air pollution readings at monitoring stations around the city hit the highest levels since a dust storm smothered Hong Kong in March 2010. The government urged people with heart and respiratory illnesses to reduce outdoor activities and avoid prolonged stays in areas with heavy traffic.

Heat Makes Situation Worse

With temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, local resident Dawn Lok said she felt suffocated. "When you go out on the street with traffic during the day, it's really horrible," she said.

Lok, who works in the health and beauty industry, said she wants to stay indoors as much as possible. "When I go to work, I just take a cab, because I can't stand on the street for more than a few minutes," she said.

The government says the city suffers from two types of air pollution: street-level pollutants emitted from vehicles, and regional smog whose sources include local coal-fired power plants and factories in neighboring parts of China.

Vehicle Emissions Blamed

A local group campaigning for immediate government action to clean the air blamed the latest smog primarily on vehicle exhaust fumes. The Clean Air Network said a weather system would not be able to trap pollutants over the city if its cars, buses and trucks emitted fewer harmful gases.

Francis Moriarty, a journalist with Radio Television Hong Kong, said the factory emissions in neighboring Guangdong province also are a major problem. "When you have a holiday or there's an economic downturn in mainland China, and the factories cease running or reduce their production, you see improved quality of air in Hong Kong," he said.

Hong Kong's role as one of the world's busiest ports is another factor. "Many of those ships [that use the port] are burning very dirty diesel fuel," said Moriarty.

Incentive Program Makes Impact

Hong Kong authorities have tightened air quality targets this year to try to meet World Health Organization standards. Since 1999, the government also has been offering incentives to individuals and businesses to replace diesel taxis and buses with cleaner liquid petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles and to retrofit old diesel vehicles with particulate reduction devices.

The measures have had some success, significantly reducing the concentration of toxic particles in the air. But, nitrogen dioxide levels on city streets have remained high. Moriarty said the public wants authorities to do more.

Another Challenge for Hong Kong Leader

"The new government of Leung Chun-ying, who has just come in as our chief executive, is already under severe political stress for a number of reasons. If it wants to create some political good will in a part of the community, acting on pollution would be one way to do it," he said.

Moriarty said many residents want Hong Kong to "stand up" to Chinese authorities to demand a stop to smog blowing in from the mainland. He said air pollution also has forced local people to consider moving abroad.

"When many people in the community are having to consider this question, 'As much as I love living here, and as profitable as it may be for me, do I want to pay the price of my health and the health of my loved ones?' Then it moves beyond anecdotal," he said. "It's a real life concern."

Lok had no immediate plans to leave. "I have to say honestly that I'm quite used to this kind of pollution already," she said.