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February 1st, 2013:

Japan looks west, holds its breath as mainland pollution heads its way

Submitted by admin on Feb 1st 2013, 12:00am



Stephen Chen

Pollution that has been choking the mainlandis heading our way, scientist in Tokyo warns

The choking pollution that has shrouded large parts of the mainland is moving east to Japan, threatening to push levels of health-threatening PM2.5 particles there beyond World Health Organisation health standards.

Japanese computer simulations show the fine air particulates could reach 40 micrograms per cubic metre today or tomorrow and cause smog in parts of western Japan such as Nagasaki.

Dr Toshimasa Ohara, head of the National Institute of Environmental Studies’ Centre for Regional Environmental Research, conceded this figure was very low by Chinese standards, as cities such as Beijing often measure PM2.5 levels in the hundreds. But 40 was twice the level generally seen in Japanese cities this time of year and higher than the 25 micrograms level set by the WHO.

Ohara said this had raised concerns among Japanese, and complaints had been growing louder in recent years as China’s air pollution worsened. Some fear the problem shows little sign of abating as China’s economy continues to grow rapidly on the back of heavy industry and development.

Much of eastern China remained smoggy yesterday, with poor visibility stranding tens of thousands of air travellers. More than 100 flights in and out of Beijing Capital International Airport were delayed or cancelled.

The conditions may improve today with the arrival of an Arctic cold front, but while those winds would come as a blessing to China, they could be a curse to neighbours such as South Korea and Japan, Ohara said. Pollution from Chinese coal-fired power plants, factories and cars would be blown far into the Pacific Ocean.

“To Japan, winter is not the worst season [for air pollution],” he said. “In the spring, the high pressure systems on the continent can pump a lot more pollutants out of China.”

But some mainland researchers disagree with their Japanese counterparts about the pollution threat to Japan.

Dr Wang Yuesi , a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Atmospheric Physics, said the impact of Chinese pollutants on Japan would be too small to matter. “Japan is a long, narrow strip of islands. The entire country would not catch many pollutants with such a landscape. Most of the pollutants end up in the ocean. It shouldn’t concern the people in Japan,” he said.

Ohara said the impact varied across different regions, being higher in the western part of Japan and lower in the east. “We have definitive proof. The challenge is getting a precise estimate on the severity of the issue.”

Scientists studying trans-boundary pollution in Asia are also struggling due to insufficient pollution data from China, according to Ohara.

Without the direct data, non-Chinese researchers can use only indirect ways to estimate China’s pollution, such as monitoring monthly energy consumption, the increase in the number of cars being bought and used, and the capacity of power plants.

Beijing and Tokyo should work out a united mechanism to protect the environment in the Asia-Pacific region, Ohara said.

Japan could also take steps to address the problem at its source.

“Japanese politicians should push for the migration of clean production technology from Japan to China,” Ohara said.


Beijing air pollution



More on this:

Hospital admissions for respiratory infections up 20pc amid Beijing smog [1]

Beijing smog scarier than Sars, says medical expert [2]

Source URL (retrieved on Feb 1st 2013, 5:53am):


Hospital admissions for respiratory infections up 20pc amid Beijing smog

Submitted by admin on Feb 1st 2013, 12:00am



Agence France-Presse in Beijing

Hospital admissions for breathing problems are up 20pc in Beijing; one leading doctor says the air pollution is ‘much more scary’ than Sars

Hospital admissions for respiratory complaints rose 20 per cent in the latest smog to hit Beijing, reports said yesterday as state media demanded greater government openness on pollution.

This week’s pollution across vast swathes of the northern mainland region – the fourth serious case of toxic air in recent weeks – has sparked online anger and prompted unusually outspoken calls for action, even from official media.

The number of patients admitted to several hospitals in the capital for breathing problems rose by a fifth in recent days, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

Half of those admitted to a city children’s hospital were suffering from respiratory infections, the newspaper said, citing doctors.

State broadcaster CCTV quoted Zhong Nanshan , the president of the China Medical Association who revealed the cover-up of the Sars epidemic of 2003, as saying: “Air pollution is much more scary than Sars, and affects the heart and veins.”

Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) infected 1,755 people in Hong Kong and 299 died. Worldwide, there were 8,098 cases across 29 countries with 774 deaths.

The China Daily urged the government to reveal details of the causes of the pollution, saying departments had yet to provide credible data.

Without such information “the government’s promise to tackle the problem may fail to materialise”, it said.

The pollution in the capital has been blamed on emissions from coal-burning in power stations and exhaust fumes from vehicles on choked streets.

The elderly, young and those with health problems in the city of 20 million were urged to stay indoors earlier in the week – or wear protective masks if they had to venture out – while dozens of flights were cancelled after visibility fell drastically.

Beijing ordered the emergency closure of factories and removed government vehicles from the streets to try to reduce the haze, but experts say more radical controls are needed to combat the problem effectively.

Real estate tycoon and internet blogger Pan Shiyi – who has 14 million followers on Sina Weibo, a mainland version of Twitter – started a campaign for clean air legislation. It had attracted more than 46,000 signatures as of yesterday afternoon.

Social media users reacted angrily to comments from an official at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, who said developed countries took up to 50 years to solve their pollution problems.

“It will take years and years and cost taxpayers all their money,” one user wrote.

Traffic policemen urged officials to change the dress code and let them wear masks on duty, the China Daily reported.

The US embassy’s air quality index in Beijing stood at 207 yesterday afternoon, or “very unhealthy”, after it peaked at more than 500 on Tuesday.

Forecasters predicted that the smog would begin to disperse overnight as strong winds arrived.


Beijing air pollution


respiratory infections

Source URL (retrieved on Feb 1st 2013, 5:51am):

First, Hong Kong roads must be rid of polluting vehicles

Submitted by admin on Jan 30th 2013, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion  30 Jan 2013

Christine Loh

Christine Loh sets out the priorities to clean up our dirty air, starting with taking the most polluting vehicles off our roads and retrofitting others to cut the harmful emissions that affect the health of thousands of people

Improving Hong Kong’s air quality is a top priority because pollution affects public health. Measures must be strong enough to make a difference.

Most of our daily exposure to air pollution occurs at the roadside. In Hong Kong’s dense urban areas, thousands of people are out and about every minute of every day. Many people work at the roadside or their place of business opens onto a busy road. And the windows of homes on the lower floors of a building open not far from these busy thoroughfares.

Moreover, our roads are relatively narrow, with tall buildings on either side. As a result, emissions from vehicle exhausts become trapped. The pollution in these “street canyons” cannot disperse easily, making it a daily health threat.

Hence, our near-term goal is to reduce roadside air pollution and our first targets are high-emission vehicles – diesel commercial vehicles (such as trucks, school buses and tourist coaches), franchised buses, LPG taxis and minibuses.

The most worrying roadside pollutant are the particulates – PM10 and PM2.5 (or particles that are 10 and 2.5 micrometres in diameter or less, respectively) – that arise from combustion in diesel engines. They can penetrate deeply into lung tissues, causing cardiopulmonary disease. The World Health Organisation recently confirmed that diesel particulates are also carcinogenic.

Our key solution deals with the 88,000 diesel vehicles in Hong Kong that do not meet the newer Euro IV emission standards. They make up about two-thirds of the total number of 128,000 diesel vehicles on our roads. Pre-Euro vehicles are now at least 18 years old, and emit 34 times more particulates than the Euro V models; even a Euro III vehicle emits five times more particulates.

The government has set aside HK$10 billion to provide subsidies to the owners of these outdated vehicles. They can either surrender their vehicle under a “cash for clunker” scheme or get a higher amount to replace their old vehicles with new ones. We offer the flexibility of a dual scheme because trade representatives say some owners may not wish to replace their vehicles – some may want to reduce the size of their fleet while others may wish to retire altogether.

The plan is to get these 88,000 polluting vehicles off our roads by a certain time – pre-Euro and Euro I vehicles by January 2016; Euro II vehicles by January 2017; and the rest by January 2019.

Some have said the subsidies were too generous, and that the phasing out would take too long. The truth is, the government is prepared to spend the money to improve public health, and it recognises that the trade needs time to replace such a large number of vehicles. For the plan to succeed, it needs to be feasible.

We have begun discussions with the trade on the details of the scheme. We will also legislate for a maximum life of 15 years for new diesel vehicles, as many other jurisdictions have done.

Another problem we face is the unusually high levels of nitrogen dioxide at our roadsides. There are two main causes – franchised buses and LPG vehicles.

While older franchised buses had particulate filters fitted to them some years ago, their nitrogen dioxide levels need to be lowered if we are to reduce the overall pollution. Fitting a selective catalytic reduction device on Euro II and III buses would enable them to perform like Euro IV and V models. Bus fleets in Europe have done similar retrofits successfully.

The Hong Kong government is proposing to fund the capital cost of these devices and for the franchisees to absorb the operating and maintenance costs. This scheme is estimated to cost HK$550 million and will take about two years to complete.

LPG vehicles are cleaner than diesel vehicles but a large amount of nitrogen dioxide can be emitted if their catalytic converters are defective. This is precisely the problem in Hong Kong. Local studies have shown that many owners of taxis and minibuses are not replacing the devices when they should. An agreement has been reached for the government to cover the cost of new devices on a one-off basis but for the trade to pay for future replacements.

There are currently about 18,000 taxis and 4,350 minibuses, 66 per cent of which are powered by LPG. For vehicles such as these, which cover a high mileage, the catalytic converter needs to be replaced about every 18 months. This scheme will cost HK$150 million and should be completed by 2014.

The above three schemes are end-of-pipe solutions. Other solutions are also needed. For example, the chief executive’s policy address called for bus routes to be rationalised. A successful reorganisation of bus numbers, routes and networks should result in shorter travel time, easy interchanges and good service, which will also improve roadside air quality.

The policy address also called for adjustments to cross-harbour tunnel fees, which will improve usage efficiency and relieve congestion.

Yet other solutions require planning changes, such as creating low-emission and pedestrian-only zones. We also have a series of measures to reduce shipping emissions. Hong Kong is a busy port for large oceangoing vessels, river trade vessels as well as local craft, such as ferries and hydrofoils.

Together, their emissions of the three major air pollutants – that is, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates – now exceed those of our power plants.

The policy address proposed mandating a fuel switch at berth for oceangoing vessels, and for onshore power equipment to be built at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. Indeed, our longer-term focus is to work with the mainland so that emissions can be controlled in all the waters of the Pearl River Delta. It’s clear from research that significant public health benefits would be reaped from such a move.

To further reduce air pollution, we will explore further reducing local coal-fired electricity generation by about 2020, as well as deepening collaboration with Guangdong, particularly on how to deal with the thorny challenge of regional smog.

We accept that much more needs to be done, and will continue to strive to reduce the public health risk.

Christine Loh Kung-wai is undersecretary for the environment. This is based on her speech yesterday at a joint chamber luncheon with French, Canadian, German, Italian, Singapore and Swedish chambers of commerce members. The event was hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong



Air Pollution


Source URL (retrieved on Jan 30th 2013, 6:14am):

Advanced Biological Treatment of Municipal Solid Waste

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