Friday October 20, 2017

Indian cities choking on high RSPM levels

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By Nithin Sridhar

While speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Environment and Forest Minister, Ramanath Rai expressed serious concerns regarding the rising levels of RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter) in Bengaluru city.

RSPM level refers to the amount of suspended dust particles that can enter the human respiratory system. It is one of the parameters that determine the extent of Air pollution. Higher the RSPM levels, higher will be the exposure to human health risks associated with the dust inhalation.

Situation in Bengaluru:

According to the statistics revealed by the minister, the RSPM levels for Bengaluru have exceeded the national permissible levels by a range of 2% to 283% in 13 air monitoring stations.

The minister said that around 54.4 tons of dust is generated daily and 42% of which comes from vehicular emissions. The dust present on roads, caused due construction activities, industries, generators, and domestic activities contribute around 20%, 14%, 14%, 7% and 3% respectively towards dust generation.

The Whitefield Industrial Zone has the highest level of respirable suspended dust in Bengaluru with RSPM level of 230 milligrams per cubic meters of air as against the national permissible RSPM level of 60 milligrams per cubic meters.

The RSPM levels in micrograms per cubic meters for other areas are as follows: Mysore Road (209), Yelahanka (121), Peenya Gymkhana (119), Peenya Industrial Area (114), Yeshwanthpur (129), Silk Board (189), Victoria Road (162), Banswadi (84), Sonnenahalli (69), City Railway station (67), Victoria Hospital (154) and NIMHANS (125).

On the other hand, the NO2 and SO2 levels have been found to be within the permissible levels in Bengaluru.

Situation across the nation:

According to a report from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), between 2001 and 2007, the RSPM levels for all metros except Chennai have been above permissible limits. The RSPM levels for Delhi has increased from 120 micrograms per cubic meters in 2001 to 160 micrograms per cubic meters in 2007. For the same period, the RSPM levels have increased from 80 to 100 micrograms per cubic meters in Mumbai.

Kolkata recorded RSPM level of 140 micrograms per cubic meters in 2007. Only Chennai recorded 50 micrograms per cubic meters which is below the national permissible limit. The levels of SO2 for these metros between the years 2001-2007 have remained below the permissible limits of 50 per cubic meters.

According to Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee, the RSPM levels for Chandigarh in 2014 was well beyond the national permissible limits. In Industrial area, it was at 114 micrograms per cubic meters, almost twice the permissible limits.

According to this 2010 CPCB report, a total of 130 cities exceeded the RSPM permissible levels across India.

Rising vehicular traffic is one of the major contributors towards increasing RSPM levels. Industrial and Domestic activities are other sources of air pollution.

Effect of RSPM on human health:

Most of the particles inhaled by the body are removed out of the body through nostrils. Smaller ones may pass through the windpipe and get stuck into protective mucus and be removed later on. But the smallest of these particles with their size less than or equal to 10 microns (called as RSPM) gets deposited in the air sacs of lungs.

These deposited tiny particles interfere with respiratory actions like an exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen. This places extra pressure on the heart and will cause acute shortness of breath.

Hence, RSPM can cause extensive damage to the respiratory system. It will lead to difficulty in breathing, aggravated coughing and decreased functioning levels. It may lead to cardiopulmonary problems, asthma, bronchitis, and in extreme cases, premature deaths.

Steps to reduce air pollution:

To reduce the levels of RSPM in Bengaluru, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had issued a 13-point direction to Transport and other government departments according to the report in The Hindu.

The remedial measures that have been suggested include creating dedicated bus lanes, increasing green covers, banning vehicles having 2 strokes and those which are older than 15 years, restrictions on the movement of heavy vehicles, clearing of encroachment and filling of potholes.

In 2003, the Supreme Court of India directed the respective state governments to prepare action plans to bring down the RSPM levels in Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Sholapur, Lucknow, Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad.

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The major actions that were proposed for most of these cities included:

  1. Industrial Pollution: Shifting of Industries from non-conforming zones, switching over to clean technologies, using clean fuels, installation of Pollution control Devices, Development of green belt, etc.
  2. Vehicular Pollution: Implementation of the emission norms as well as fuel quality in accordance with the road map proposed by the Auto Fuel Policy, switching over to clean alternate fuels like CNG, LPG & Bio-fuels, augmentation in Public Transport system, Better traffic management.
  3. Domestic Pollution: Ban on open burning of garbage, biomass, etc. and augmentation on the supply of LPG as cooking fuel etc.

But the measures that have been taken across various cities till date appear to be insufficient to bring the RSPM level below the permissible levels. Instead, the rising vehicular populations and increasing factories and industries are making the situation worse. The city and state administrations must pursue this issue seriously and should try to bring the RSPM below the permissible level as soon as possible.

 

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‘Humans Have Caused Pollution and Humans Can Fix It too’, Says UN Environment Head; Asserts Asia Must Lead Efforts for a Pollution-Free Earth

World Health Organization figures show Asia has 25 of the world's 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health

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People wear protective masks during a polluted day in Shanghai (VOA)

Bangkok, September 9, 2017 : Asia-Pacific — home to more than half the world’s population and some of its fastest-growing economies — is a key battleground in the fight against pollution, one of the biggest threats to the planet and its people, the U.N. environment chief said.

An estimated 12 million people die prematurely each year because of unhealthy environments, 7 million of them due to air pollution alone, making pollution “the biggest killer of humanity,” Erik Solheim told the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment in Bangkok this week.

ALSO READ Air Pollution expected to Cause 60,000 Deaths in 2030 and 2,60,000 in 2100 Globally: Study

Humans have caused pollution and humans can fix it, said Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, in an interview with Reuters at the four-day summit.

“The struggle for a pollution-free planet will be won or lost in Asia — nowhere else,” said the former Norwegian minister for environment and international development.

The sheer size of Asia-Pacific, as well as its continued economic growth, put it at the heart of the challenge, he added.

The region’s development has been accompanied by worsening pollution of its air, water and soil. Its emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide doubled between 1990 and 2012, and the use of resources such as minerals, metals and biomass has tripled, according to the United Nations.

Asia-Pacific
A man carries a sack of vegetables as he walks past a polluted canal littered with plastic bags and other garbage, in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) (VOA)

World Health Organization figures also show Asia has 25 of the world’s 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health. The pollution comes largely from the combustion of fossil fuels, mostly for transport and electricity generation.

Solheim said Asia is also a major contributor of plastic polluting the world’s oceans — and solutions can be found in the region. He pointed to a huge beach cleanup campaign in Mumbai that inspired Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overhaul the country’s waste management system.

“There’s enormous environmental opportunity,” Solheim said. “Asia has by and large strong governments, and they have the ability to fix problems.”

Coal no longer king?

Solheim said fighting pollution by moving toward renewable energy sources such as wind and solar would also benefit efforts to curb climate change, which scientists say is stoking more deadly heatwaves, floods and sea-level rise around the world.

But environmentalists worry that Asia’s demand for coal, the most polluting of the major fossil fuels, is likely to grow for years to come.

Figures from a forum organized by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Singapore earlier this year show that some 273 gigawatts of coal power are still being built, although much more has been put on hold.

In July, analysts told Reuters that Japan, China and South Korea are bank-rolling coal-fired power plants in Indonesia despite their pledges to reduce planet-warming emissions under the Paris climate deal.

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Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to limit the rise in average world temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Experts say curbing or ending the use of coal is required if this goal is to be reached.

Globally, many countries — including China — are shutting down or suspending plans for coal-fired power plants as costs for wind and solar power plummet.

Solheim is optimistic, noting that the International Energy Agency significantly raised its five-year growth forecast for renewables led by China, India, the United States and Mexico.

“There are very, very few people in the world who believe that the future is coal,” he said. “I think we will see the shift [to renewables] happening much faster than people tend to believe.”

ALSO READ Paris climate pact: The play of words

On U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull his nation out of the Paris Agreement, Solheim sees a silver lining.

“The surprising judgment of history may be that Donald Trump did a lot of service to this fight against climate change by withdrawing, because he galvanized the reaction of everyone else,” said Solheim.

“All the big, iconic companies of modern capitalism — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon — they immediately said, ‘We will move into the green economy.'” (VOA)

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Street View Car Map by Google Locates Methane Gas Leaks

Colorado State University biologist Joe Von Fisher helped enable a street view of Methane leaks in the city with the help of Google maps

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Gas Leak. Wikimedia

August 04, 2017: Finding underground methane gas leaks is now as easy as finding a McDonalds, thanks to a combination of Google Street View cars, mobile methane detectors, some major computing power and a lot of ingenuity.

When a city’s underground gas lines leak, they waste fuel and release invisible plumes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. To find and measure leaks, Colorado State University biologist Joe von Fischer decided to create “methane maps,” to make it easier for utilities to identify the biggest leaks, and repair them.

“That’s where you get the greatest bang for the buck,” he pointed out, “the greatest pollution reductions per repair.”

Knowing that Google Maps start with Google Street View cars recording everything they drive by, along with their GPS locations, von Fischer’s team thought they would just add methane detectors to a Street View car. It turned out, it was not that simple.

“Squirrelly objects”

The world’s best methane detectors are accurate in an area the size of a teacup, but methane leaks can be wider than a street. Also, no one had ever measured the size of a methane leak from a moving car.

“If you’ve ever seen a plume of smoke, it’s sort of a lumpy, irregular object,” von Fischer said. “Methane plumes as they come out of the ground are the same, they’re lumpy squirrelly objects.”

The team had to develop a way to capture data about those plumes, one that would be accurate in the real world. They set up a test site in an abandoned airfield near campus and brought in what looked like a large scuba tank filled with methane and some air hoses. Then they released carefully measured methane through the hose as von Fischer drove a specially equipped SUV past it, again and again.

They compared readings from the methane detectors in the SUV to readings from the tank.

“We spend a lot of time driving through the plumes to sort of calibrate the way that those cars see methane plumes that form as methane’s being emitted from the ground,” von Fischer explained.

With that understanding, the methane detectors hit the road.

Also Read: This fiber material can sense odorless fuel leaks


Turning data into maps

But the results created pages of data, “more than 30 million points,” said CSU computer scientist Johnson Kathkikiaran. He knew that all those data points alone would never help people find the biggest leaks on any map. So he and his advisor, Sanmi Peracara, turned the data into pictures using tools from Google.

Their visual summaries made it easy for utility experts to analyze the methane maps, but von Fischer wanted anyone to be able to identify the worst leaks. His teammates at the Environmental Defense Fund met that challenge by incorporating the data into their online maps. Yellow dots indicate a small methane leak. Orange is a medium-sized one. Red means a big leak – as much pollution as one car driving 14,000 kilometers in a single day.

Von Fischer says that if a city focuses on these biggest leaks, repairing just 8 percent of them can reduce methane pollution by a third.

“That becomes a win-win type scenario,” he said, “because we’re not asking polluters to fix everything, but we’re looking for a reduction in overall emissions, and I think we can achieve that in a more cost effective way.”

After analyzing a methane map for the state of New Jersey, for example, the utility PSE&G has prioritized fixing its leakiest pipes there first, to speed the reduction of their overall pollution.

“To me that was a real victory, to be able to help the utility find which parts were leakiest, and to make a cost effective reduction in their overall emissions,” von Fischer said.

Von Fischer envisions, even more, innovation ahead for mapping many kinds of pollution… to clean the air and save energy. (VOA)

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Air Pollution expected to Cause 60,000 Deaths in 2030 and 2,60,000 in 2100 Globally: Study

According to the study, hotter temperatures speed up the chemical reactions that create air pollutants like ozone and fine particulate matters, which impact public health

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air pollution. wikimedia
  • Air pollution, if left unaddressed, is expected to increase air pollution-related deaths by nearly 60,000 in 2030 and 2,60,000 in 2100 globally
  • Locations that get drier may also have worse air pollution because of less removal by rain and increased fires and windblown dust
  • The team used an ensemble of several global climate models to determine the number of premature deaths that would occur due to ozone and particulate matter in 2030 and 2100

New York, August 2, 2017: Air pollution, if left unaddressed, is expected to increase air pollution-related deaths by nearly 60,000 in 2030 and 2,60,000 in 2100 globally, a study has claimed.

According to the study, hotter temperatures speed up the chemical reactions that create air pollutants like ozone and fine particulate matters, which impact public health.

Locations that get drier may also have worse air pollution because of less removal by rain and increased fires and windblown dust. As trees respond to higher temperatures, they will also emit more organic pollutants, the researchers said.

“As climate change affects air pollutant concentrations, it can have a significant impact on health worldwide, adding to the millions of people who die from air pollution each year,” said lead researcher Jason West, Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For the study which appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change, the team used an ensemble of several global climate models to determine the number of premature deaths that would occur due to ozone and particulate matter in 2030 and 2100.

ALSO READ: Indian Researcher part of the team that developed new hyper-local Air Pollution Map

For each model, the team assessed the projected changes in ground-level air pollution that could be attributed to future climate change. They then overlaid these changes spatially on the global population, accounting for both population growth and expected changes in susceptibility to air pollution.

Five out of eight models predicted there will be more premature deaths in 2030, and seven of nine models in 2100.

“Our finding that most models show a likely increase in deaths is the clearest signal yet that climate change will be detrimental to air quality and health,” West noted.

In addition to exacerbating air pollution-related deaths, climate change is expected to affect health through changes in heat stress, access to clean water and food, severe storms and the spread of infectious diseases, the researchers said. (IANS)