Putting policy into practice to clean up South Asia’s dirty air (commentary)

first_imgColombo-based Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene has covered science, environment and public health issues for nearly three decades. He tweets from @NalakaG. Air Pollution, Environment, Governance Article published by dilrukshi Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredcenter_img Banner Image: Pollution in Delhi, India. Image by jepoirrier/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0). South Asia is home to 18 of the 20 cities with the world’s worst air pollution; 15 of them are in India.A decade ago, Chinese cities were ranked among world’s worst, but India is now more impacted by deteriorating air quality, according to a recent study on global air pollution levels.In cities where air quality showed improvement, such as in China, policies and practices to combat the pollution have played a significant role.This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay. If there was a world competition for cities with the worst air quality, South Asian cities would win hands down.In 2018, 18 of the top 20 cities with the worst air pollution in the world were in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. India alone accounted for 15 of these cities.These unenviable rankings are found in the World’s Most Polluted Cities 2018 list compiled by Greenpeace and AirVisual, an air pollution app that compiles real-time monitoring data from more than 10,000 locations worldwide. AirVisual uses an indicator called PM 2.5 as a representative measure of air pollution.Gurugram, a suburb of Delhi, is the world’s most polluted city, according to the list, followed by Ghaziabad, a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Pakistan’s Faisalabad (at No. 3) and Lahore (10) are also on the list, as is Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka (17).The remaining spots on the top 20 were taken by the Chinese cities of Hotan (8) and Kashgar (19). A decade ago, Chinese cities dominated these rankings.The 2018 report found that average concentrations of pollutants fell in Chinese cities by 12 percent from 2017 to 2018. Beijing, for years among the most polluted locations in the world, is now no longer among the 100 worst.China has accomplished this by implementing strict air pollution reduction policies and strategies. It shows that economic progress need not be made at the cost of public health or the environment.Can South Asia, collectively home to nearly 2 billion people, do likewise and tackle its air pollution before the burden of disease and premature death toll get worse? What policy, technology and lifestyle changes are needed? And do South Asian governments have the political will to clean up their foul air?Health burdenPolluted air has long been linked to aggravating respiratory diseases, but in recent years research has shown that it’s also connected to many other ailments.The World Health Organization (WHO) says nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. According to data aggregated by the global health agency, around 7 million people die (prematurely) every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air. More than 90 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa.More than 40 percent of the world’s population does not have access to clean cooking fuels and stoves, exposing women and children in particular to high levels of indoor air pollution, says the WHO.Among the commonly measured air pollutants, PM 2.5 has the most health impacts. Originating from combustion in vehicle engines, industry activity, or wood and coal burning, such tiny particulate matter can penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system. Prolonged exposure can cause illnesses including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and respiratory infections including pneumonia.In 2013, the WHO classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans (category 1, which means there is sufficient evidence of cause and effect in humans). Long-term exposure to air pollution can cause lung cancer, and also increase the risk of cancer in the bladder, said the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized arm of the WHO.The WHO recommends an annual mean exposure threshold of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air to minimize the risk of health impacts from PM 2.5 The United States Air Quality Index (US AQI), one of the most widely used in the world, has set a slightly higher value of “good” air: 12 micrograms per cubic meter.The collective population of 2 billion people in South Asia are subject to very poor air quality. Photo by Vincent van Zeijst/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)Improve measurementsAirVisual’s 2018 report lists air quality data for 84 cities monitored in South Asia, 99 percent of which exceeded the WHO’s annual threshold for PM 2.5. As a whole, the air in South Asian cities had six times the recommended limit. (This report includes Iran as part of the South Asian region, while excluding the two smaller states of Bhutan and the Maldives.)The region’s main sources of PM 2.5 are human-made: vehicle exhaust emissions, open crop and biomass burning, industrial emissions and coal combustion.But there is limited understanding of how pollutant levels vary across space and time.This is due to the lack of air pollution measuring stations that share their data in real-time. India and Iran have relatively more public measurements, but even these are not evenly spread. For example, Delhi has the highest number, and also dominates media coverage for its polluted air, even though seven other Indian cities had worse PM 2.5 values in 2018.“The majority of South Asia … including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, lack government supported real-time public stations,” says the report. Most measurements from these countries have come from either U.S. embassy monitors or citizen-led monitoring networks.Wider and better air quality measurements can shed light on transboundary air pollution as well. For example, pollutants coming over from northern India are a serious concern for its neighbor, Nepal. Research shows that more than a third of the pollution in Nepal during winter is blown in from across the border.This calls for cross-border coordination and cooperation. Shutting down Nepal’s few hundred brick kilns will not remove the pollution arriving from the tens of thousands of kilns in neighboring India.“Beyond responding to emergencies, the entire northern South Asia needs a strong push towards cleaner, less polluting technologies, including clean cooking, clean brick production and clean transportation,” says Arnico Panday, senior atmospheric scientist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal.Solutions Even as air quality measurements are being enhanced and scientific research continues, South Asia’s city administrations and national governments need to take concerted action to tackle air pollution.A recent report by U.N. Environment, titled “Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-based Solutions” (October 2018) spells out 25 policy interventions that can help countries.These fall into three categories: conventional emission controls focusing on emissions that lead to PM 2.5 emissions; next-stage air quality measures for reducing such emissions; and measures contributing to development goals with benefits for air quality.Technologies already available – such as clean cooking stoves, electric vehicles, and renewable energy sources – can be mainstreamed by the right policies and tax incentives. Better farming methods and other land use practices can help reduce creation of dust and soot, two formidable air pollutants in South Asia.In the end, all policies are only as good as their implementation, and success depends critically on good governance and political will. Among other things, U.N. Environment says, having a government agency with a clear mandate for air pollution regulation “is essential for successfully adopting many … clean air measures.”China’s strategies for improving air quality are worth studying too. But everything that worked in China’s centralized and state-dominated system may not be directly replicable in democracies or federated states.In one respect, at least, the Chinese experience is worth emulating. When Beijing had the world’s most fouled air, its residents learned to check PM 2.5 levels every day to decide how much outdoor activity was safe. Beijing media carried air quality index measurements alongside the daily weather forecast.Improving degraded air quality takes time, effort and persistence. In the meantime, greater awareness can help South Asians minimize exposure and take some basic precautions.last_img

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