Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Zealand's Poor Air Quality

Most images of New Zealand show a pristine environment of great beauty. It therefore comes as a surprise that airborne particle pollution in many towns is above World Health Organisation guidelines. This is not due to the diesel cars that confound efforts to manage air pollution in Europe, or the density of cities and industry that contributes to problems in east Asia, Europe and parts of north America. It is due mainly to home heating.

With limited availability of natural gas and expensive electricity many New Zealanders, especially those in the South Island, rely on wood burning to heat their homes. National standards for particle pollution allow for one polluted day per year but Christchurch measured eight in 2015 and the city of Timaru breached standards on 26 days.

New Zealand’s poorly insulated homes and fuel poverty contribute to high winter deaths and children’s asthma. No heating is not an option. Better wood stoves or heat pumps are alternatives, along with insulation, but upgrading homes takes time and even with modern stoves the smoke produced depends on the user . Teaching people to burn wood better could help air pollution right away. The Warmer Cheaper programme takes you step by step through lighting a fire and keeping it going for the evening with the least pollution. One of the main causes of smoke is insufficient kindling. Schools and community groups are therefore being harnessed to sell kindling and an award-winning invention, the Kindling Cracker, by Kiwi teenager Ayla Hutchinson can help people chop kindling easily and safely.

Read the full article @ the Guardian

Northern India Contributes to Shrinking of Glaciers

@ Third Pole - The region covering the mighty Himalaya-Hindukush mountains and the Tibetan plateau happens to be the third largest ice-covered region on the planet falling behind the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. The Asian region, covered in ice and house to several glaciers, is thus nicknamed as the Third Pole. And like the other snow-covered regions on the planet, the glaciers in this region are not being spared by climate change and global warming. They are shrinking.

Read the full article @ Indian Express

Quoting a Chinese study, The Washington Post recently reported that almost 18 per cent of China’s glaciers have melted over the last five decades. NewAtlas.com reports that Western China itself serves as a home to 48,571 glaciers covering an area of 51,840 sq km. Thus the results are alarming as the Third Pole is located near densely populated countries like India and China, unlike the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. While the shrinking of glaciers will affect the water supply and industrialisation in these areas, billions of people sprawled in these countries are bound to be adversely affected subsequently. The Indus River, for instance, is fed by the melting water from the Chinese glaciers.

Apart from global warming, another factor that aggravates the melting of glaciers in the Third Pole is air pollution. China and India are among the worst-ranked countries in air pollution. A Greenpeace report states that coal burning is the biggest contributor of air pollution in China and surrounding areas and if China wants to work on its problem of air pollution, it has to reduce its coal consumption. However, in a new study published in journal Nature Communications, researchers found out how black carbon acts as a catalyst in the melting of glaciers in the Third Pole region.

Using “chemical fingerprinting”, researchers analysed what kind of burning produces the black carbon particles found all across the Third Pole. The results were astounding. Burning of fossil fuels along with biomass like animal dung and plant matter contribute gravely to the creation of black carbon particles. While most of the Tibetan Plateau was being directly affected by the fossil fuel burning in China, the black carbon found in the Himalayan region was mostly coming from northern India.

Researchers also noted that the sampled black carbon in the central part of the Tibetan plateau was coming from from biomass burning rather than fossil fuels. This could point towards the Tibetan practices like burning yak dung for cooking and heating. Researcher Shichang Kang, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research said it was “very surprising” that these processes were contributing more towards the melting of glaciers in certain parts of the region, The Washington Post reports.

The study could help controlling the situation since earmarks the areas that need to be worked upon. For instance, in the Tibetan region, the government could help the locals find alternatives to burning biomass. Similarly, industries in the vicinity could also formulate plans to reduce the black carbon production.

Air Pollution in Pimpri Chinchwad Increased 35% in the Last Six Years

Air pollution in the city is monitored at six places. The percentage of pollutants has increased due to emissions from public as well as private vehicles, the report states. Like most years in the past, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) has submitted the environment status report much after the July 31 deadline even as it has expressed an ambition to prepare a time-bound programme for environment-friendly development. The report considers poor rainfall last year and variations in the weather, besides rising vehicular population as main reasons for increased air pollution in the city. On the air pollution in the city, the report also blames the poor rainfall last year and the variations in temperatures, besides public and individual vehicles.

Read the full report @ Times of India

Haze in Singapore Due to Forest Fires in Indonesia

The haze that affected Singapore from Friday to Sunday was caused by forest fires burning in Rokan Hilir in Sumatra's Riau province, Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said yesterday. Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who heads the BNPB's data and information division, said the smoke was carried to Singapore by winds unleashed by Typhoon Lionrock in the Philippines.

Read this for haze situation update

The tropical cyclone has since left the Philippines and was moving towards Japan yesterday. Satellites detected 162 "fire alerts" in the Rokan Hilir regency between Friday and Sunday. The fire alerts accounted for almost half of all the 338 fires detected across Sumatra and Kalimantan over the same three days. The fires were exacerbated by a combination of dry conditions, sporadic rains and the illegal use of fire for land clearing.

While the hazy conditions in Singapore cleared up by yesterday, heavy haze hit most parts of Kuala Lumpur, with air pollutant readings in the Malaysian capital reaching near "unhealthy" levels, Xinhua news agency reported. The 88-storey Petronas Towers were barely visible in the thick haze, which reached even the office of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, prompting him to tweet: "The haze is back in some areas, so please take healthcare measures, especially the old and the young."

Read the full article @ Strait Times

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Air Pollution to Printing Ink

A chorus of car horns, jammed roads and ever rising fuel prices - These problems have become a daily routine for most urban commuters in India. And along with road congestion, city dwellers also have to deal with clouds of smoke from various emissions making our air toxic and difficult to breathe in. To address these problems, India's start-up space is stepping up to the challenge, trying to fix traffic, parking problems and air pollution through creative technology. Some of them are even using pollution to print t-shirts and paint walls, on this episode of Heads Up, meet these innovators and hear their stories.

Read the full story @ NDTV

INR 700 crore (~USD 105 million) Collected in Delhi as Truck Entry Fees and Diesel Cess - No News on Spending

At least Rs 400 crore collected under the "polluter pays" principle in recent times and Rs 300 crore out of the entire pollution cess on diesel sold in the capital since 2008 are yet to be utilised to improve the air quality in the capital.

Though the state government, the pollution control committees and the municipal corporations are flush with such funds following Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal (NGT) directives strictly penalising polluting sources, they are yet to frame concrete plans on how to spend the money .

Experts told TOI that the money shouldn't be spent on day-to-day operations or infrastructure of these departments or agencies but pumped into where it was needed most: improving public transport and implementing tried and tested methods to clean up the air of one of the worst polluted cities in the world. The environment compensation charge (ECC) levied by the apex court on trucks entering Delhi has led to the corporations collecting Rs 395 crores, which has been handed over to the state transport department. Likewise, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), also under the AAP government, has collected more than Rs 2.5 crore as ECC for waste burning and construction projects violating dust pollution norms.

However, the authorities seem to be dragging their feet on how to implement what NGT and the court had ordered: that such funds should be spent to fight Delhi's air pollution. DPCC is also the custodian of the "air ambience fund" which was created in 2008 to collect a pollution cess of 25 paise on every litre of diesel sold in the capital. The state government has been utlising this fund to subsidise electric vehicles; a part of it has also been used on the odd even scheme. However, about Rs 300 crore of the corpus remains unutilised.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recently opened an account for the collection of 1% pollution cess on the ex-showroom price of luxury diesel vehicles (more than 2000 cc). It is developing a strategy now to invest this amount which will be submitted to the apex court soon. "The money will be utilized for pollution monitoring, control and public awareness. In the last one week since we opened the bank account for this cess, we have collected Rs 3 lakh from various NCR areas. However, Delhi hasn't started levying this yet," a CPCB official said.

Read the full report @ Times of India

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Nottingham Drops 33% of CO2 footprint

The local authority set the area a target of a 26% reduction by 2020, but the latest figures mean that the target has been beaten this year. According to the city council – Nottingham is now producing three tonnes less of CO2 per year per person than they were in 2005.

In 2012 Nottingham introduced a workplace parking levy, which saw businesses with 11 or more employees parking on their premises paying the £381 charge. The city council claims the levy, which has 100% compliance rate, has enabled it to invest in better public transport to tackle air pollution and traffic congestion in Nottingham.

In 2014 the local authority expanded its electric bus fleet to 50 partly thanks to the government’s green bus fund. “A significant part of this reduction – around 13% – is due to the popularity of public transport, cycling and walking in Nottingham. “Certainly, the workplace parking levy is a unique policy in the UK at the moment. But we believe it has the potential to help many cities deal with congestion and air quality issues. It enables us to invest in low-carbon transport, and the fact it provides regulation, and to some extent, constraint on city centre usage are significant things.”

Read the full article @ Air Quality News

Urban Heat Island Effect in Chinese Cities

Here’s another way China’s notorious air pollution is making citizens’ lives uncomfortable—it’s making the country’s cities hotter. Researchers have found evidence that the pollution engulfing China’s cities enhances the warming effect of cityscapes, raising the temperature by one degree Celsius. Writing in Nature Communications, they say it’s not the bigger cities that suffer the most, but those with the worst of a certain type of air pollution.

Cities tend to be hotter than countryside areas because of the Urban Heat Island effect—the density of buildings and the materials they are built out of absorb heat and radiation from the sun extremely well, but don’t readily release it at night, keeping the area warmer for longer.

Meanwhile, China’s cities are often covered in a haze, as the researchers call it, that comes from the vehicles, factories, and coal-fired power plants that have driven China’s industrial development, which in turns has triggered a mass migration of citizens from rural areas into cities in search of work. The population regularly manifests as a suffocating smog that can engulf major cities for days.

Scientists have long suspected pollution exacerbates the Urban Heat Island, said Xuhui Lee, a professor at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, in a press release. The new finding, based on satellite data, is the first direct evidence that China’s infamous pollution problems are compounding the effect.

But not all pollution is created equal. Fine pollution particles, such as those in the 2.5 PM (particulate matter) range that are normally blamed for damaging health can actually be a protector when it comes to city heat. On the one hand, they cause asthma and penetrate the blood stream and internal organs, raising the risk of cancer and heart disease. On the other hand, those same sized particles actually block sunlight, which can help cool city surfaces.

Larger aerosol particles, such as those generated from road dust, coal burning, cooking stoves and sand—particularly a problem in cities in China’s northwest that are near to the Gobi and Taklimakan deserts—absorb and radiate heat while also being bad for health. The dust carried over from the deserts, combined with industrial pollution, mean these cities suffer the most from a thicker haze and a larger heating effect, compared to the bigger coastal cities. Hami City, population 450,000, has an Urban Heat Island effect three times worse than Shanghai, which has 14 million residents.

Read the full article @ Quartz

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mumbai Dumpyard Fires Made for Toxic Air

Chembur, Ghatkopar and Mankhurd residents breathe the city’s worst air, with frequent fires at the Deonar and Mulund dumping grounds pushing air pollution to dangerously high levels. The BMC’s data only reinforces what citizens and activists have been pointing out for months. Residents have been complaining about the quality of air after repeated fires between December 2015 and March 2016 at Deonar, the city’s largest dumpyard. Air quality has been ‘very poor’, affecting visibility and causing breathing problems and asthma attacks among the locals. 

Month-wise data from April 2015 to March 2016 showed SPM level in Chembur was 700 microgram per cubic meter (mgcm) – the ideal limit being 200 – between December and March. At Bhandup, SPM levels touched 1,000 mgcm in December last year.

Experts said industrial units in Chembur and Bhandup, and a rise in vehicular traffic, intense construction activities and stone crushing could be causing poor air quality. “SPM is bound to be very high in Mumbai because of a combination of a number of particles strung together. The main source for the pollutant is dust from open landfills, open burning and several construction activities in the city,” said Gufran Beig, project director, System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). “Last year, the soil was also dry because of poor rainfall and sea breeze allowed dust to be suspended closer to the earth’s surface,” Beig said.

Read full article @ Hindustan Times

Infographic - Waste Overflowing on Roads and from Dustbins in Delhi

Cloth Masks Provide Very Little Protection Against Air Pollution

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have suggested that in order to reduce exposure to air pollution wearing inexpensive cloth masks could be of only a little help and give you a false sense of security, especially in highly polluted areas. Washable cloth masks are widely used in India and other Asian for personal protection against airborne particulate matter.

"Wearing cloth masks reduced the exposure to some extent," but "the most commonly used cloth mask products perform poorly when compared to alternative options available on the market," said the study by scientists at University of Massachusetts Amherst. In a series of experiments with an experimental mannequin in Nepal, the researchers tested four masks -- one pleated surgical type, two cloth and one cone-shaped cloth with exhalation flaps. They tested for several variables and effectiveness in filtering out five different synthetic aerosol particle sizes plus three particle sizes of diluted whole diesel exhaust, which simulated real-world conditions.

Among the cloth masks, the one with exhaust valves performed fairly well, removing 80-90 percent of synthetic particles and about 57 per cent of diesel exhaust. Plain cloth masks were "only marginally beneficial" they said, in protecting people from particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, often considered more harmful than larger particles because they can penetrate the lungs more deeply.

"Unfortunately, the least effective two mask types are also inexpensive, reusable and are widely used in developing countries, implying they are a popular consumer choice where pollution mitigation is warranted," the authors noted.

Read the full article @ India TV

Infographic - Honking Problem - Number of Noise Monitors in Delhi = 15

Sunday, August 21, 2016

China’s Thermal Coal Imports Jumped 9% Year-on-Year in 2016

According to the latest issue of the China Resources Quarterly (CRQ) from Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. The country took 44 million t over the three months to June 2016 with the majority of that coming from Indonesia. The southeast Asian country accounted for 51% of Chinese imports. In contrast, Australia saw its shipments to China fall 10% year-on-year to 9 million t, while the value of Australian exports fell 18% year-on-year to AUS$509.8 million.

Australian thermal coal exports to China peaked recently at 12.9 million t in 2Q14 but have now recorded four consecutive quarters under 10 million t – with a low of 6.6 million t in the first quarter of this year. The value of exports has fallen from AUS$870.7 million in 2Q14.

The increase in thermal coal exports comes as the Chinese government continues to cut back on excess domestic production. The government aims to eliminate 500 million t of production over the next three to five years. Over the first half of the year, Chinese thermal coal imports registered a fall of just 3.4% year-on-year, a significant increase on the 34.8% decline seen in 1H15. That said, BMI Research believe the effects of government stimulus in driving coal demand, coupled with an easing of production cuts in 2017, will see thermal coal imports “subsiding gradually in the coming years.”

“Weak consumption growth means that China’s thermal coal imports will remain capped around the 108 million t registered in 2015,” BMI Research concluded. “China’s imports peaked at 192 million t in 2013 and we expect 2017 to see a resumption of the gradual contraction in imports.”

Read the full article @ World Coal

Friday, August 19, 2016

Coal Burning Causes the Most Air Pollution Deaths in China

Burning coal has the worst health impact of any source of air pollution in China and caused 366,000 premature deaths in 2013, Chinese and American researchers said on Thursday. Coal is responsible for about 40 percent of the deadly fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5 in China’s atmosphere, according to a study the researchers released in Beijing.

Those figures are consistent with what Chinese scientists have been saying in recent years about industrial coal burning and its relation to air pollution. The study, which was peer-reviewed, grew out of a collaboration between Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s top research universities, and the Health Effects Institute, based in Boston, a research center that receives funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the worldwide motor vehicle industry. The researchers’ primary aim was to identify the main sources of air pollution leading to premature deaths in China.

The study attributed 155,000 deaths in 2013 related to ambient PM 2.5 to industrial coal burning, and 86,500 deaths to coal burning at power plants. Fuel combustion of both coal and biomass in households was another major cause of disease that year, resulting in 177,000 deaths, the study concluded. The researchers also found that transportation was a major cause of mortality related to PM 2.5, with 137,000 deaths attributed to it in 2013. In recent years, Chinese scientists have said that motor vehicle emissions are a leading source of air pollution in cities, although not as great as coal burning. Vehicle ownership is rising fast in China, and officials, carmakers, and oil and gas companies have quarreled over setting emissions standards.

China consumes almost as much coal annually as all other countries combined, and coal burning in the country is the biggest source of both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the leading cause of climate change. Chinese cities are among the most polluted in the world. Provinces in northern China, where steel, cement and power plants are common, have the highest concentrations of PM 2.5 in the country.

Read the full article @ New York Times

Inforgraphic - Delhi Transport Corporation Introducing Electric Buses

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Launching Electric Cars in Nigeria

A firm, Carbon Credit Network (CCN) has concluded plans to storm the world with made in Nigeria electric cars through her renewable energy drive. The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Femi Oye disclosed this at the fourth anniversary ceremony in Lagos recently. According to him, “The technology is already here only waiting for some documentation. CCN is pioneering electric cars in Nigeria, starting with our tricycle cars to advanced luxury cars. The good thing about it is that they are not imported, they are to be manufactured here.”

Oye, who recalled that he set up shop few years ago with less than N100, 000, said the company has recorded some milestones. “Today, it is a multibillion naira organisation as a result of the contributions of partners across the globe,” he said. While reeling out the achievements since its inception, he noted that over three million Nigerians have benefitted from the impact and opportunities created directly or indirectly from over 45, 000 entrepreneurs created in the last four years.

While noting that over 70 per cent graduates are out of jobs across the country, he urged the Federal Government to create the enabling environment to allow entrepreneurs to thrive. We have over 45, 000 active entrepreneurs talking about our business every day. Each of these entrepreneurs has a family of about six to seven people that depend on them. If we have like six other companies doing this too, government can raid in taxes to build infrastructures that we need,” he said.

While speaking on the CCN plan to establish a bio-fuel refinery in Nigeria, the CCN boss said his company has seen a lot of economic opportunities in what the world calls a monster waste. “To militate against the effect of food security we cannot continue to produce fuel when the world is going hungry. We are losing over 100 thousand women yearly to indoor air pollution from black carbon that is why we decided to do something differently.”

The event tagged: ‘Renewable Energy and Economic Development: Impact and Opportunities’ had academia, environmental experts, financial experts, community women, banks and civil society groups.

Read the full article @ The Nation

Why India is Still Looking for a Perfect Cookstove

This is a long article from Caravan Magazine

ON MANY MORNINGS, especially in winter, a pall of smoke hangs over the villages of Palwal district in Haryana, a landscape of tractors, brick kilns and new colleges. It’s the haze of thousands of hearth fires burning in the courtyards of homes, boiling dal, baking rotis, and producing fine particles of soot and other pollutants at levels as high as that of Delhi—arguably the world’s most polluted city, only a few hours’ distance from here.

Indian cities don’t have perfect services. Electricity may vanish for hours, and piped water is supplemented by tankers. Yet the urban elite can take one thing for granted: cheap cooking gas. Those who’ve grown up and live in well-off city homes can hardly imagine life before LPG: the long hours over slow stoves, the smells of kerosene and coal, the smoke of wood and dung. But the kitchen life of their grandmothers is still the kitchen life of millions of women in villages across India.

MODERN EFFORTS TO IMPROVE upon India’s traditional mud stoves date back to the late 1930s. A well-known early re-design was called the Magan chulha, after Mohandas Gandhi’s Magan Institute in Wardha. Less than a decade later, the Hyderabad Engineering Research Institute came up with a stove that would, it promised, give women “five freedoms”—freedom from smoke, soot, heat, fuel waste, and the risk of burns. But it wasn’t until the 1970s, a decade of economic and energy shocks, that the hearth came under real scrutiny. Two years after the 1973 oil crisis sent petroleum prices skyrocketing and exposed the dangers of the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, the researcher Erik Eckholm called attention to what he saw as an equally important but neglected energy problem: the scarcity of firewood for the poor. “For more than a third of the world’s people,” he wrote in a 1975 paper, “the real energy crisis is a daily scramble to find the wood they need to cook dinner.”

Titled “The Other Energy Crisis: Firewood”, Eckholm’s paper drew a grim, Malthusian picture. The world’s ever-increasing poor were consuming firewood at unsustainable rates. Wood prices were rising, villagers had to walk farther to find firewood, and “in some Pakistani towns now, people strip bark off trees that line the streets.” The consequences were no less than the “suicidal deforestation of Africa, Asia and Latin America,” and the diversion of manure from fields in such quantities as to affect food production. “Without a rapid reversal of prevailing trends, in fact,” Eckholm warned, “India will find itself with a billion people to support and a countryside that is little more than a moonscape.”

In 2002, an evaluation by the National Council of Applied Economic Research indicted the programme for ineffective stoves, a lack of follow-up, and low participation. Irregularities and corruption were found in the distribution system. That year, the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources—upgraded from department status in 1992—shifted the programme’s administration and funding onto state governments. In 2004, the initiative was formally closed. By then, the ministry had approved more than 30 models both fixed and portable, and spent an estimated $32 million to distribute 34 million chulhas. It had been one of the largest stove programmes in the world.

As for Madhu Sarin, she had long stopped being the “chulhawali.” She’d had run-ins with “technocrats and engineers,” and gotten “knocked off government lists.” Most of all, a drought in northwestern India between 1985 and 1987 made the whole enterprise seem foolish. On a survey of Nada stoves in Dungarpur, Rajasthan, she found most of the able-bodied people had migrated for survival; in one home, she met an old man and his infant grandson sharing a single roti. “And I was asking them about improved stoves.” She moved on to work on larger issues of poverty and community forest rights, including the right of village women to collect fuelwood. As for clean cookstoves, she came to the conclusion that structural problems couldn’t be solved with single-point interventions. “Designing a smokeless biomass chulha,” she said, “is in some ways more complex than designing a nuclear power plant.”

TUCKED IN THE RAIN SHADOW of the Western Ghats, Pune is green and cool for much of the year. But under summer’s glare, the hills turn brown and the trees wither into sticks, dry as tinder. Many small firms cluster here, within easy reach of both Mumbai and the rural hinterland, including enterprises making clean stoves for the Indian market.

As India’s stove programme was running out of energy through the 1990s, concern over dirty stoves simmered in the international development sector. This culminated in the launch of the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, in 2002, by the US Environment Protection Agency and the World Health Organisation. Interest and funding was sustained by emerging research on the health effects of indoor air pollution, and a new attention to women’s rights exemplified in the 1995 UN conference on women in Beijing.

At our interview, Smith said he hasn’t given up on the clean cookstove Until a Honda or BMW tries and fails, he said, there is still a chance of a technological breakthrough. “And if they fail, then that would tell us something too, that maybe there’s no point in solving the biomass problem.” Some stove promotion efforts have done well, when customised and closely monitored. And he was hopeful about a new fan stove from the US start-up BioLite, which has low emissions and an electricity-generating component for charging mobiles—a neat way of appealing to the men of the house.

In the meantime, Smith said, “we’ve got to make what we know is clean available.” He was encouraged by the Indian government’s new experiment with direct cash transfers for its LPG subsidy. This, he said, could help target the subsidy directly at the poor, instead of selling the gas at lower prices to everyone, and the money freed up could then help expand gas coverage. In December, LPG customers across the country received notices about the cash transfers, asking those who could afford it to give up the subsidy and give the “gift of good health particularly to womenfolk exposed to high levels of indoor pollution.”

Expanding electricity and gas coverage to the poor would mean greater consumption of fossil fuels, and, especially with India’s high reliance on coal-burning power plants, an increase in greenhouse emissions. That may not go down well with climate-focused agencies, and trade-offs are antithetical to technological panaceas. But, said Smith, “I’m a health man, not an energy man.” After 30 years, he takes the long view. “The history of modern innovation tells us about the problems we choose to solve. When did we learn human waste was bad for you? Have we fixed it?” he asked. “First, you have to know it’s a risk and accept that it’s a risk. And that still doesn’t mean you know how to fix it.”

Read the full article @ Caravan Magazine

Pollution Masks in Kathmandu

Only 10 years ago, donning a face-mask in Kathmandu meant a few odd things—you were a doctor, an invalid or just fussy. But in that short decade, face-masks have gone from quirky accessories to vital appendages. Today, everyone—pedestrians, motorists and cyclists—are covering their faces against life threatening airborne particulates. Increasingly, living in Kathmandu has also meant constantly struggling to keep it out of your lungs. The deteriorating air quality inside the Valley, due to a host of reasons—ranging from vehicular emissions to industrial fumes and forest fires—have increased the health risk associated with regular exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution. In turn, it has also given seed to a thriving market for face-masks that promise to keep its users safe. But how effective are they? “Masks are no longer an option but has become compulsory in current day Kathmandu,” says Sailendra Dongol, who commutes the city on his bicycle. 

An active member of the Kathmandu Cycle City (KCC), a group of cycling enthusiasts aiming to make Kathmandu an environment-friendly cycle city by 2020, Dongol believes that cyclist are particularly susceptible to prolonged exposure to Kathmandu’s air. Earlier this year, having tried several anti-pollution masks available in the market, Dongol finally settled on the newly-launched Totobobo mask. Now six months and hundreds of grey filters later, he finally believes he has found a mask that protects him from harmful pollutants, particularly PM 2.5 and PM 10. The Singapore-manufactured Totobobo masks are made from silicon and rubber and are advertised as being ‘leak-proof’. They have two valves placed with interchangeable, activated charcoal filters in each valve, and can be changed depending on the need and desired level of protection. 

The face-mask with ‘N92’ designated filters means that they can block at least 92 percent of very small particles when properly fitted, while the N96 is effective in filtering 96 percent of the small fine particles and microbial agents that otherwise easily pass through the normal cloth and surgical mask commonly in use in the city. According to Nelson Labs, an independent testing centre in the US, “N95 respirators are used to filter contaminants such as dust, fumes, mists, as well as microbial agents including tuberculosis bacteria and flu virus. They are certified to filter greater than or equal to 95 percent of all challenged particles free of oil and greater than 0.3 microns in size, much smaller than the PM2.5 microns, the key pollutants that can directly enter inside the lungs.” The Nelson Labs has certified Totobobo with 99.85 percent effectiveness.

Read the full article @ Kathmandu Post

Confusion Over the Diesel Vehicle Ban in Delhi

Automobile makers may cheer Friday’s order by theSupreme Court lifting the ban on registration of diesel vehicles with engine capacity over 2,000 cc in Delhi, but the government and green groups are opposing various of its aspects.

The ban on registration of passenger vehicles with diesel engines of 2,000 cc or more was imposed in December as a temporary measure to reduce air pollution in the capital. On Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakurhad ordered one per cent of such vehicles’ ex-showroom price be paid by manufacturers and distributors for registration in Delhi.

The funds collected from this levy was ordered to be deposited in an account of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to be opened in any public sector bank. However, CPCB officials said the government itself had filed an application against Friday’s order. The new levy has been named environment protection charge after the government argued imposition of taxes was the prerogative of Parliament. Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar on Friday moved an application against the order, which the court is likely to consider at the next hearing. “No bank account has been opened because details of the Supreme Court order like the rate of tax is sub judice,” a CPCB official said. With the court not specifying the date of the next hearing, the matter has become more complicated.

Read the full article @ Business Standard

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Air Pollution in Rio - A View From the Skies

The black mark in the left image shows the location of the MaracanĂ£ Stadium. The right image shows the same picture overlaid with air particulate data. The skies over Rio have about the same air pollution seen in cities when there is a light haze in the air.
There's a lot at the Olympics to take your breath away. The amazing opening ceremonies, the athletics, the green pool(s). Now we can add another item to the list: Air pollution. The image above was taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite on August 2. It shows the elevated levels of air pollution in Rio de Janeiro, which has been plagued with criticism over dirty water in its waterways, and the presence of Zika in its mosquitos.

To be clear, the pollution imaged by MISR in Rio is nowhere near the level of smog in China where air pollution can reach dangerous levels in cities like Beijing. It's more of a light haze than anything else. But the image does show off the capabilities of MISR. Researchers plan on making images like this one, taken from the instrument available to the public in the near future for locations all over the world.

Read the full article @ popsci

Saturday, August 06, 2016

No Monsoonal Relief for Indian Air Quality

The much-awaited monsoon season has finally arrived, marking an end to a year of winter smog and the overbearing summer heat. The rains also provide some respite from polluted air in many Indian cities—or so it seems. Clear, smog-free skies, gusty winds and a grassy, fresh smell offer a brief spell of clean air.

However, air quality data over the last two years shows that monsoon air pollution levels are still significantly worse than those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Although monsoon air is cleaner than air during other seasons, air-pollution levels are worse than what is considered safe and remain a risk to public health.

To understand seasonal air pollution, we examined air quality data published by the US embassy in New Delhi and its consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. We broke down the data between June 2014 and June 2016 into four seasons: winter (December to February), summer (March to June), monsoon (July to September) and post-monsoon (October to November). We then calculated the average PM 2.5 levels for each season. PM 2.5 measures particulate matter that is less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter—particles so small they can penetrate deep into the respiratory system and pose significant health risks.

Read the full article @ Live Mint

Youngistan Wants to Own a Car, Despite Heavy Traffic

However, a little more than half of those interviewed also admitted that driving would be a difficult task. Does owning a car still figure among the aspirations of young Indians, even in a traffic-choked city like Bengaluru? An attitudinal study on car ownership revealed that young adults are open to buying a car as soon as they can afford it. However, a little more than half of those interviewed also admitted that driving would be a difficult task due to traffic congestion.

The study, ‘Analysis of the influences of attitudinal factors on car ownership decisions among urban young adults in a developing country like India’, was conducted by Meghna Verma, M. Manoj and Ashish Verma from the MS Ramaiah Institute of Management and the Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc.), Bangalore. It was published in a peer-reviewed magazine on Wednesday. The researchers conducted the survey in universities in Bengaluru. The average age of the respondents was 22 and they had about 6 months’ work experience. About 52 per cent of them were male. About 56 per cent had qualifications of post-graduation or above. The survey sample size was 700.

A comparison with Hong Kong showed that the share of youngsters choosing public transport (bus and metro) in Bengaluru is 66 per cent lower than in Hong Kong. Apart from the possibility of short commute distance and dependency on walking, the study also pointed to the perception of public transport as a reason for this difference.

“It is not just about today; we also have to look at tomorrow. Bengaluru has seen a lot of infrastructural improvements in the last five to ten years, but the situation remains the same, if not worse. We will have to reduce car ownership eventually, and dissuading youngsters who will be part of the workforce in the next few years, will help,” said Prof, Ashish Verma from the IISc.

Read the full article @ the Hindu

Thursday, August 04, 2016

China's Elevated Bus: Futuristic 'Straddling Bus' Hits the Road

The 2m-high Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) straddles the cars below, allowing them to pass through. Powered by electricity, the bus is able to carry up to 300 passengers in its 72ft (21m) long and 25ft wide body. A video of a mini-model of the vehicle caused great excitement when it was released in May.

The trial run was conducted on a 300m-long controlled track in the north-eastern city of Qinhuangdao. The vehicle is expected to reach speeds of up to 60km per hour, running on rails laid along ordinary roads. Up to four TEBs can be linked together. "The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space," the project's chief engineer, Song Youzhou, told state-media agency Xinhua earlier this year. "The TEB has the same functions as the subway, while its cost of construction is less than one fifth of the subway," another engineer Bai Zhiming told news outlet CCTV.

One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, according to the firm. However, it is unclear when the vehicle will be widely used in Chinese cities. It is not a new idea, but it was not seriously considered until a mini-model of it was launched at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in May. A month later, developers announced that the TEB would be ready for a test-run in August. Thousands took to micro-blogging site Weibo to express their amazement and incredulity.

full article @ BBC

Garbage Underbelly of Bengaluru

A dry waste collection centre that has not been functioning for two years, garbage piles that refused to relent in size despite daily clearing and lakes turning into black spots. In just three days after a city-wide exercise to check on solid waste management, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has found over 200 black spots. The Board had formed eight teams to scour all the 198 wards.

In the preliminary stages of the survey, East Bengaluru seemed the worst of the lot. On Wednesday, an inspection of six wards revealed 24 major black spots. In Banaswadi, the transit segregation was occupied by a herd of cows while a Dry Collection Centre has been locked for ‘no apparent reason’ for the past two years. The Banaswadi lake has been converted into a ‘black spot’ with residents spotted dumping garbage bags into the water body, which lacks proper fencing.

Regional officers who talked to The Hindu say much of the problems in garbage collection and segregation are systemic. One problem is the timing of door-to-door collection, which happens primarily between 6.30 a.m. and 9 a.m. “Many residents are not in the house during this time, or do not know when the civic worker arrives. The vehicle waits for barely two minutes at each house. Garbage that is not collected often ends up on roads, lakes, drains or in black spots,” said an environment officer. 

Door-to-door collection often excludes commercial establishments, which are not open during this time. Roadside dumps and black spots are cleared – if at all – by 11 a.m. But by evening, the black spot is back. KSPCB suggests increasing the frequency of clearing black spots, but civic workers plead that their trucks get held up at dumpsites and landfills for hours and even days.

Full article @ the Hindu