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January 31st, 2013:

Beijing smog scarier than Sars, says medical expert

Submitted by ernest.kao on Jan 31st 2013, 11:51am



Ernest Kao

The severe atmospheric pollution that has engulfed Beijing for nearly three weeks is “much more frightening than the Sars virus”, a top respiratory health expert said.

“There were many ways to get away from Sars… you could have avoided it by leaving [a room] or taking different methods of prevention, but air pollution, indoor pollution – you can’t run away from it,” said Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese Academy of Engineering professor and head of Guangzhou’s Institute of Respiratory Diseases, during a news segment on CCTV on Wednesday.

Zhong played an instrumental research role during the 2003 outbreak and helped set up Guangdong’s guidelines for prevention and management.

More flights were cancelled at Beijing Capital International Airport early Thursday morning after the haze and smog showed no signs of dissipating. Visibility levels fell to only 300 metres the evening before.

Low visibility caused the cancellation of at least 20 flights at the Beijing airport, which included international flights to and from Kiev, Paris, Tokyo and Newark.

Bad air and thick smog have infiltrated the city for about 19 days, the most on recent record.

Raw video: Smoggy and slippery Tiananmen Square on Thursday morning. Video by Simon Song

Doctors in Beijing said Thursday that hospital admissions for respiratory complaints rose in recent days.

The number of patients admitted to several hospitals in Beijing complaining of respiratory problems rose 20 per cent “in recent days”, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

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

The latest data, from the city’s US embassy Air Quality Index at 10am, showed the level of PM2.5 – particulate matters small enough to cause threat to human health – to have dropped to 233 micrograms per cubic metre, lower than Wednesday’s reading of 305 at 5pm, but still considered “very unhealthy”.


Beijing has urged residents to stay indoors. Unable to take a fresh breath of air for nearly a month, netizens took to Sina Weibo to vent their frustrations.

“We open the windows and suffocate from haze and air pollution. We close the windows and then suffer formaldehyde poisoning. This is the high price of GDP growth,” one user said.

Beijing has temporarily halted operations at 103 factories, while government agencies and state-owned companies have been ordered to cut vehicle use by 30 per cent.

The rules however prove difficult to enforce. Although, government cars have been ordered off the road, the Beijing Times reported on Wednesday that 875 vehicles from the government-run bus line had flouted the restrictions and taken to the roads.

Large swathes of northern China have also been affected.

In Jinan, Shandong province, PM2.5 stood at 207 on Thursday morning. Jinan traffic police said on Weibo that traffic police were now being forced to wear N-95 protective facemasks after 37 per cent of traffic officers reported flu-like symptoms, coughing and tightness in the chest.

Additional reporting from Agence France-Presse


Beijing air pollution



More on this:

Beijing’s crazy, quick fixes for toxic air: canned air, bicycle-powered air filters [2]

Pollution remains at hazardous levels in Beijing [3]

Chinese tycoon fights pollution with thin air [4]

Thick smog closes airports and highways across China [5]

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 31st 2013, 10:25pm):


An incinerator isn’t our only choice

Submitted by admin on Jan 31st 2013, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

Tom Yam

Tom Yam says while there’s no question that Hong Kong needs a waste treatment plant, an incinerator based on fading technology that’s also highly polluting isn’t our only choice

Most of us would agree that reducing waste at source, recycling and reuse is the best long-term approach to Hong Kong’s waste disposal. But let’s face it, given the 18,000 tonnes we generate daily, there’s no way that the “three Rs” can prevent our garbage from filling up all three landfills by 2019.

The landfills will have to be extended. And thermal decomposition technology will need to be employed as well. The critical questions are: what is the technology, and where should this technology be located?

It’s important to note that thermal decomposition technology is not limited to incineration. It encompasses newer, more advanced technologies that need a little more vision to consider. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Department has only applied tunnel vision to the problem so far.

Since 2007, it has been fixated on building a colossal incinerator costing HK$15 billion that uses old technology to burn 3,000 tonnes of waste a day. Worse, the department proposes to build this bonfire in the pristine natural environment of Shek Kwu Chau, off south Lantau.

The way the department has been pushing this mega incinerator, you’d think there was no alternative. But there is. A more flexible and creative strategy is to build a small-scale, state-of-the-art plasma gasification plant that can be integrated with the existing waste-disposal facilities at one of the current landfill locations. If this plant proves successful, its capacity can be gradually expanded.

Phasing it in will minimise the risks of deploying this advanced technology: we can see whether it disposes of our waste efficiently. If the pilot plasma gasification plant performs well, build more at other landfill sites. Adopting cutting-edge technology while managing potential risks would be the approach of a “world city”, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket with a mass-burn incinerator based on sunset technology.

The core technology of the moving-grate incinerator beloved of the Environmental Protection Department has not changed in 50 years. It burns waste at 800 degrees Celsius, releasing combustion gases into the atmosphere. Almost a third of the waste remains hazardous ash that needs to be transported to landfills for disposal. Incremental improvements to this technology over the years have mainly involved pollution-control devices to manage – but not eliminate – toxic emissions.

In the United States, the number of incinerators using moving-grate technology has fallen from 186 in 1990 to 87 in 2010, due to their health risks and high costs, along with the increase in waste reduction and recycling. No new incinerators have been built in the US since 2010. Last year, the New York City government specifically excluded moving-grate technology in its request for bids to build a new waste-to-energy treatment plant.

In Japan, the number of moving-grate incinerators was cut by 25 per cent between 1998 and 2005, when it stood at 1,320. Plasma gasification technology has been introduced at two locations. In Europe, wide-ranging waste reduction and recycling have actually led to an over-supply of incinerator capacity.

It is only in developing countries like China that moving-grate incinerators are being constructed in significant numbers. Manufacturers using this technology recognise that it is coming to the end of its life cycle. They are pushing to squeeze profits from it before it becomes obsolete.

Although moving-grate technology incinerates waste into ash, the gasification process converts waste into synthesis gas and slag – a type of solid waste – with recovery of energy and valuable metals. Gasification is completely different from incineration; burning does not occur in a plasma gasification unit.

Plasma gasification employs extreme temperatures (4,000 to 8,000 degrees) in the absence or near-absence of oxygen, with organic and other materials broken up into chemical elements that are then either collected (in the case of valuable metals), vitrified to produce an inert glass-like slag, or reformed into synthesis gas that can be used as an industrial feedstock or converted to energy.

About 100 commercial plasma gasification waste-processing facilities have been constructed worldwide since 1994. Most of these plants are used to vitrify incinerator ash. Others are used to process medical waste, hazardous waste and other difficult types of waste. Two in Japan are treating municipal solid waste, with more being planned. One in Ottawa, Canada, is being built. British Airways recently reached a deal to build plasma gasification facilities that can convert waste into aviation fuel. Four in the US, two in Britain, four in Canada, one in India and one in China are reportedly being planned .

An examination of scientific and technical literature, media reports and other sources found no health or safety problems, and few environmental problems, with plasma arc disposal systems. Also, no environmental or health and safety problems have been reported among the eight plants treating materials including asbestos, tannery waste, aluminium dross, catalytic converters, medical waste and munitions.

If plasma gasification is the best solution, the obvious question is: Why aren’t there more waste-disposal plants using this technology? The answer is simple: The capital cost is still very high. However, as with any new technology, the cost will inevitably drop as it is used in more plants and adopted by more users.

The choice that Hong Kong faces is clear: will it use a sunset, pollutant- emitting technology for a plant built in a pristine environment, or will it judiciously integrate step by step an advanced technology in existing landfills that is being adopted worldwide with much less environmental and health impact?

Is the Environmental Protection Department smart enough to understand the difference?

Tom Yam is a Hong Kong-based management consultant. He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania


Waste disposal




Source URL (retrieved on Jan 31st 2013, 6:20am):

Link to HK airport among new design plans for Guangzhou district of Nansha

Submitted by admin on Jan 31st 2013, 12:00am



Mimi Lau in Guangzhou

Urban designs for Nansha district show rail line to connect air travellers with Hong Kong

Guangzhou has rolled out detailed urban design plans for its Nansha district, with a light-rail line to connect the district to Hong Kong’s airport.

The “Guangzhou Nansha new zone urban general plan 2011-2030” was posted on the city government’s website on Monday for 30 days of public consultation, ending on February 26.

The plan includes a subway system, with seven lines and 34 stations linking Nansha to airports in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong and Guangzhou South railway station.

A planning expert at Nansha’s district government said it was proposed that light-rail lines linking Zhongshan and Nansha to Dongguan , Guangzhou, Xintang and Dongguan to Qianhai in Shenzhen and Qianhai to Hong Kong International Airport would run at 200km/h and be completed by 2020.

Dr Hung Wing-tat, a transport expert at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said the release of the Nansha plan would drive up property prices in the district and attract business investment, but it would also benefit Hong Kong.

“Nansha’s regional transport network will serve as a fast tube, drawing passengers to international routes flying out of Hong Kong,” Hung said.

He said Hong Kong offered a lot more routes for international flights at better times and that was an “advantage that was very hard for mainland airports to compete with”.

However, Professor Zheng Tianxiang , a Pearl River Delta planning expert who was an adviser on the Nansha plan, urged the Hong Kong government to petition Guangdong to revise the link to Hong Kong.

He said it would be better for Hong Kong if the link from Qianhai to the airport was part of the mainland’s high-speed rail network rather than the Pearl River Delta’s intercity light-rail network, as it would be easier for millions of high-speed train passengers from south of the Yangtze River to fly out of Hong Kong.

Hung added that Hong Kong could expect to lose all of its container port business to Nansha when the new zone was running.

“It is competition at first, but this is good for Hong Kong in the long run as we don’t have enough land,” he said. “The productive value of our current container port is very low.”

Nansha, Qianhai and Hengqin in Zhuhai are three development zones in Guangdong focusing on co-operation with Hong Kong.

The Nansha plan says 300 square kilometres – 38 per cent of the zone’s total area – will be used for urban construction.

The plan also includes seven environmental zones to protect wetlands and restore areas formerly used for mining.




urban design plans

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 31st 2013, 6:16am):