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January 6th, 2012:

Shanghai to begin PM2.5 pollution monitoring, after much whining over price

Jan 6, 2012

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By Benjamin Cost

Shanghai will finally install PM2.5 air-quality monitoring equipment after more than two months since it pledged to do so.

With the system’s launch, the city will join a league of regions spanning Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Yangtze River Delta, Zhujiang River Delta and elsewhere preparing to employ the PM2.5 monitor this year. Next year, the standard will encompass 113 new cities and by 2016, all of China will be covered.

What was the big holdup? According to Ministry of Environmental Protection authorities, their bellyaching over the exorbitant expense of implementation was the main hindrance to following through with the project:

One set of PM2.5 equipment cost at least 80,000 yuan (US$12,710), while the most expensive could cost 380,000 yuan. Provinces haven’t included the cost in their 2012 budget as PM2.5 and ozone monitoring was only recently mentioned by the ministry.

Zhu (a ministry official) said the country’s investment on such equipment could total more than 2 billion yuan.

Fu Qingyan, chief engineer of the Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center, said the city hasn’t included the equipment in this year’s budget but the city government has already agreed on the extra expenditure.

Not only has Shanghai smog failed to fall in line with the PM2.5 threshold since 2005, but the watchdog (a bullshit-su, we assume) has been about as transparent as Shanghai air when it comes to relaying the present system’s readings.

Monitoring PM2.5 particles or those measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter is a bigger deal than their microscopic nature would suggest. For all you laymen out there (which by now probably only includes fresh Shanghai arrivals), PM2.5 particles are microscopic pollutants able to infiltrate our respiratory and circulatory systems and cause long-term health issues and even premature fatalities. The current system in place in Shanghai only measures PM10 particles.

But thankfully, Shanghai officials have, albeit begrudgingly, prioritized the public’s health and safety above cost considerations – something that the city has struggled with for what seems like an eternity. Now, if only their pollution reports couldactually line up with those of the PM2.5 system itself.

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.

Incinerators’ good global track record

South China Morning Post

SCMP Letter   Jan 07 2012

Incinerators’ good global track record

Plasma arc is a suitable and proven method for the disposal of small quantities of hazardous waste. However, for household refuse it would use large quantities of energy, and it is definitely neither needed, nor feasible, for the disposal of 3,000 tonnes per day of municipal household waste.

The “old-fashioned” moving grate technology is fully capable of addressing Lai See’s “noxious chemical cocktail” (“Making a hash of dash to ash”, January 4) and hundreds of plants operate worldwide in highly sensitive areas.

To demand that the Environmental Protection Department considers this technology, which is unproven at any commercial scale, for Hong Kong is about as ludicrous as suggesting shooting all our garbage by space rocket into the sun. What is needed is a plant that meets the highest standards in operational efficiencies. That is where the department could learn from my firm.

Alexander Luedi, general manager, Explosion Power Hong Kong Limited

Meanwhile SCMP’s  Laisee  counters:

SCMP Laisee :  07 Jan 2012

Garbage in, garbage out

A letter in today’s paper pooh poohs plasma arc technology as a means of disposing of municipal solid waste saying: “To demand that the Environmental Protection Department should consider this technology, which is unproven at any commercial scale, for Hong Kong, is about as ludicrous as suggesting to shoot all of our garbage by space rocket into the sun!” Strong words from Alexander Luedi, who is the general manager of Explosion Power Hong Kong.

A little context of interest here, which Luedi doesn’t mention in his letter, is that his company, according to its website, specialises in cleaning furnaces, boilers, ash hoppers, silos and other vessels. “We provide online boiler cleaning equipment and services to thermal power plants, waste-to-energy plants, … to improve thermal efficiencies, reduce downtime, and improve the safety of maintenance workers.” (link thanks to CTA)

So it’s not unreasonable to think Luedi’s eyes lit up at the prospect of business opportunities from a monster incinerator that processes some 3,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste a day which, in turn, generates 1,200 tonnes of fly ash.

In his letter, Luedi says plasma arc technology, “is neither needed, nor feasible for the disposal of 3,000 tonnes per day of municipal waste.”

His views don’t appear to be shared by authorities in Japan, the UK, Mexico, India and China, which are all using plasma arc technology to process municipal solid waste and to convert it into energy instead of the conventional moving grate technology proposed for Hong Kong. The new technology produces little in the way of emissions of toxic dioxins and less mess for the likes of Luedi and his company to clean up.

Hong Kong’s government planners are out of control

South China Morning Post

Proposals to reclaim vast tracts of land from the sea are unnecessary; with population projections indicating that the city will not need that much space

The government-developer complex in Hong Kong is out of control and urgently needs to be reined in.

On Wednesday, the government announced proposals for new reclamation projects at up to 25 sites around Hong Kong’s coastline, with plans for vast new artificial islands complete with bridges and tunnels to connect them to the city.

The government says all this reclamation is necessary to provide the 1,500 hectares of additional building land Hong Kong will need by 2039.

(Although if all the proposed projects were to go ahead, the total reclamation area would come to around 3,000 hectares. That’s more than twice the size of Lamma Island and more land than Hong Kong has reclaimed from the sea since 1990, even including the massive airport and West Kowloon reclamation projects.)

The government says Hong Kong will need this new land to house its swelling population, which the Census and Statistics Department projects will grow by 25 per cent over the next three decades to hit 8.9 million in 2039.

Let’s examine those figures for a moment. According to official figures, in the middle of last year the city’s “usual resident” population numbered 6.9 million.

Over the past 10 years, our annual birth rate has averaged 9.2 babies per 1,000 inhabitants, while the death rate has averaged 5.6 per thousand.

If we assume those rates won’t change, and that there will be no net migration, projecting Hong Kong’s population growth over the next three decades gives us a city of just 7.6 million usual residents in 2039 (or 7.9 million if you count the “residents” that don’t actually live here); a far cry from the government’s 8.9 million forecast.

But even that projection overstates likely population growth, because our birth rates and death rates will change. Hong Kong has an ageing population, with more than half the population over 40 and one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. That means, as our population gets even older, there will be more deaths and fewer births. This declining natural growth rate means the city’s population will fall well short even of 7.6 million usual residents by 2039.

In other words, the government’s population projection assumes not only that the immigration rate will rise almost 50 per cent compared with recent years, but that those immigrants will be busy making lots of babies.

This is hard to swallow, especially given the government’s hostility even to granting permanent residency to long-serving maids.

Other demographers agree. Working from the same starting point and factoring in a moderate but declining immigration rate (which makes sense as the mainland grows richer relative to Hong Kong), the US Census Bureau projects that Hong Kong’s population will peak in the middle of the next decade and then decline to 6.9 million by 2039. That’s two million fewer than the government’s forecast (see the chart).

So you have to wonder why we need to reclaim all that building land from the sea. The truth is that Hong Kong is neither short of housing, nor of land to build on. In his policy address in October, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen admitted that the city has more than 200,000 flats sitting empty. That’s enough to meet all housing demand for the next eight years.

On top of that, the government is already freeing 3,000 hectares for building by re-zoning and re-developing unused or underused land, largely in the New Territories.

And if that is not enough, Hong Kong boasts an additional 2,600 hectares of industrial land (which doesn’t include land devoted to transport infrastructure), much of which can be redeveloped relatively cheaply in the future.

As a result the government’s latest reclamation plans don’t just look unnecessary, they look nuts.

It’s hard to conclude anything except that the planners and their construction industry cronies have run completely amok, crazed by the prospect of getting their hands on the government’s huge fiscal reserves and using them to build ever more grandiose, expensive and unneeded civil engineering projects.

They need to be stopped.

Smoke and obfuscation in defence of outdated incineration technology

South China Morning Post

Howard Winn
Jan 06, 2012

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RTHK’s Backchat programme on Wednesday generated a certain amount of heat with its discussion on the proposed Shek Kwu Chau incinerator project. Elvis Au was wheeled out to bat for the government. He is the assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department.

During the discussion, Au defended the decision to use old moving-grate technology, which essentially moves the material over a grate and burns it, producing a noxious fume that is vented through a chimney that, at 130 metres high, will be about half the size of the IFC 1 building. Scrubbers on the incinerator will eliminate some of the particulate matter (PM10) that are 10 micrometres in size. But it will not stop the more dangerous carcinogenic-causing particulate matter (PM2.5) which, depending on the wind direction, will add to the poor air quality in Kowloon or the Pearl River Delta. Some 1,200 tonnes of fly ash a day, complete with dioxins, will also have to be transferred to barges and dumped.

When pressed on why the government was not considering plasma arc technology, which produces considerably fewer emissions and is environmentally much cleaner, Au became somewhat cagey. He said the government had spoken to representatives from plasma arc firms, but remained unconvinced, saying the technology was untested and could only handle relatively small quantities. This does not seem to square with evidence elsewhere, which suggests that, in theory, any volume of waste can be handled by increasing the number of burners.

Despite the decision against plasma arc technology, we gather that Aecom, the government’s consultants, will be visiting a plasma arc firm in Britain later this month to further inform themselves. But Aecom’s counterparts in North America seem more informed. Commenting on Milwaukee’s plans to proceed with a 1,200-tonne per day plant using plasma arc technology,Aecom’s Mike Zebell said: “We believe that this technology is not only environmentally friendly, but ready for large-scale commercialisation.”

The suspicion is that the government’s reluctance to consider plasma arc technology is because it is pandering to business interests, in that the proposed incinerator plan involves significant reclamation work and contractors are already salivating at the prospect of another lucrative concrete pouring exercise

Environmental official Elvis Au

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Environmental official Elvis Au

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