Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Clean Air News - December 28th, 2008

Dear All,

this is new in the SIM-air series. This weekly post (on every Sunday) will include interesting news and articles on air pollution and climate change. For more details visit the UrbanEmissions page.

BBC - December 20th, 2008
Harvard physicist and climate change advocate John Holdren will be Mr Obama's scientific adviser.

Asian Times - December 18th, 2008
Vietnam counts cost of development, air pollution a major component.

Hurriyet Daily News - December 24th, 2008
Alarming air pollution in Ankara, Turkey.

Climate-L Daily Feed - December 18th, 2008
Economics of adaptation.

EcoWorld - December 22nd, 2008
Turning on solar thermal power.

Science Daily - December 19th, 2008
95% of the world's population lives on 10% of the world's land.

Science Daily - December 19th, 2008
Olympic Pollution Controls In Beijing China Had Big Impact On Air Pollution Levels.

Science Daily - December 23rd, 2008
A Price on Carbon not enough to save rainforests.

Science Daily - December 23rd, 2008
Developing countries lack means to acquire more efficient technologies.

Science Daily - December 24th, 2008
Does global warming lead to A change in upper atmospheric transport.

Economist - December 18th, 2008
Pocket world in figures - clean energy.

Economist - December 21st, 2008
Climate change diplomacy - fiddling with words.

NPR - December 23rd, 2008
What Mode Of Transportation Is Greenest?

Guardian - December 24th, 2008
Change at what price - Environmental year 2008 in review.

Guardian - December 23rd, 2008
UK - Government buildings emit more CO2 than all of Kenya.

NY Times - December 15th, 2008
Pollution or Technology Problem?

EcoWorldly - December 23rd, 2008
There is no point in calculating your carbon footprint - you need to understand it!

Wired - December 17th, 2008
Oil Is Not the Climate Change Culprit — It's All About Coal.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Clean Air vs. Polluted Air: How much, Where at, Why?

In the developing countries, the monitoring of air pollution is limited, due to limited capacity, supply of equipment, technical training, etc etc. Still, we manage the address the air pollution issues, with what is available. Same can be achieved and enhanced by combining the modeling efforts to forecast and validate air pollution in real time and support the compliance/regulation duties, along with some decision making support.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) offered a course on air quality forecasting at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorological (Pune, India) between December 8-12.

Course material includes training on the modeling tools (WRF-Chem) and 101 lectures on various components of air pollution modeling.

Material for a similar course in Lima, Peru (June, 2006)

Also see

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cleaning the Air Helps Cool the Planet

this is the article published in Scientific American this week.. It is important we talk about climate change, mitigation and adaptation, technological and management options to manage climate change, but if we want to put the money where our mouth is, then "cleaning the local air pollution" is the cost effective and best option.

A note on co-benefits of various management options @ Series 08-2008.

Earlier blog on co-benefits here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

210,000 Christmas lights !!

if this is not waste, then what is.

Other side of Atlantic, we have the UNFCCC convention in Poznan, discussing how to save energy, so another can have 210,000 Christmas lights, synchronized with music on home computer



I will give 10 for the effort and the art work.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Clean Coal = Healthy Smoking

it is still bad, no matter how little the burning is.

An article on CNN quoting, Al Gore, ".... but Gore, who said that "clean coal" was like "healthy smoking", is convinced that we need to change our habits now."

The argument should not be interpreted as "don't use", but "use wisely".

The discussion is about prevention vs. control. A group of population conserving energy by changing their habits, doesn't translate to reduction in the electricity generation. The generation still continues to happen (and grow) and get diverted to a different population group. But, in theory, the incremental change that might have taken place because of the new population becoming on-grid, is avoided.

By changing our habits, we prevented the growth and by controlling the consumption at the generators, we are reducing the possible pollution levels. However, we are in need of large scale interventions, than clean coal technologies.

The climate change gurus might say this is important for saving the environment on a long term basis, but the near term air pollution, which is interlinked with the climate change, needs immediate attention.

If you look at the numbers projected by WHO on the possible mortality rates due to air pollution, the need to focus on local criteria pollutants, such as particulate matter, is now.

As the quote says, smoking even one cigarette is harmful.. however clean it may be. So, even if the power plant is using the cleanest of the coal, even if a group is using the low emission car abiding all standards, there is nothing better than not using or using less.

Also see

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What is Particulate Matter?

For urban air pollution, among the many pollutants that are critical, the particulate (PM) pollution is the most important.

A working paper, supporting the SIM-air program presents "What is Particulate Matter?". This paper describes the composition of PM (by size and chemistry, primary and secondary), sources estimation based on studies around the world using bottom up (via emissions) and top-down (via source apportionment) methodologies, and impacts of PM on health and environment.

Cities highlighted in the paper are
  • India - Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune
  • Brazil - Sao Paulo
  • Chile - Santiago
  • Mexico - Mexico City
  • Peru - Lima
  • China - Beijing, Shanghai
  • Mongolia - Ulaanbaatar
  • Nepal - Kathmandu
  • Bangladesh - Dhaka
  • Thailand - Bangkok
  • Philippines - Manila
  • Vietnam - Hanoi
Also see

Friday, November 28, 2008

Non-Motorized Transport - Is it Worth it?

Yes, it does in many ways and one group lists 28 reasons to bike.
  1. Increase in local property values
  2. Correlation with Overall Wealth
  3. Less Public Money Is Needed To Create a High Quality Transportation System
  4. High-Tech Business Is Attracted by a Perceived Better Quality of Life
  5. Improved Personal Finances
  6. Better Physical Health
  7. Better Mental and Emotional Health
  8. Fewer Overweight and Obese Citizens
  9. More Free Time
  10. More Beauty
  11. Greater Mobility
  12. Inclusion of Senior Citizens
  13. More Equitable Living for Low Income Earners
  14. Increased Sense of Community
  15. Individual Opportunities for Safer Travel
  16. Less Congested Roads
  17. Safer, Quieter Neighborhoods
  18. More Resources for Public Use
  19. Enhanced and More Credible Metropolitan Image
  20. Better Air Quality
  21. Visually More Appealing Metropolitan Area
  22. Cleaner Surface and Ground Water
  23. Quieter City
  24. Slowed Pace of Global Warming
  25. More Sustainable Lifestyle
  26. Recognition for Leadership in Sound Environmental Policy
  27. Readiness for Other Environmental Initiatives
  28. Enhanced Quality of Life for Women
Also see

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Estimating Health Impacts of Urban Air Pollution

A working paper, supporting the SIM-air program presents a methodology, resources (dose response functions for mortality and morbidity), and example calculations for Estimating Health Impacts of Urban Air Pollution.

Air pollution in the urban centers is a growing concern for the public and government bodies; owing to growing number of vehicles on the road, increasing number of industries, domestic use of fossil and biomass fuels for heating and cooking. And the consequences of being exposed to air pollution due to various pollutants, such as:
  • Effects on human health - Premature mortality, asthma attacks, respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, oxygen deficiency in blood, eye irritation, and genetic and reproductive damages
  • Effects on vegetation - Productivity loss and slower photosynthesis for vegetation
  • Effects on material and structure - Corrosion of metal, accelerated erosion on building and monument
  • Effects on comfort and aesthetics - Bad smell, reduced vision distance, quick paling of paint on buildings
  • Effects on ecosystem (atmosphere, soil and water body) - Local human health), regional (acid rain), and global (climate change)
It is important to note that that
  • The methodology is based on empirical dose response functions based on epidemiological studies conducted around the world and the calculations based on these should be taken into consideration as guidelines for comparison and decision making and should not be taken literally for conclusions.
  • The uncertainty exists in calculations, every step of the way, but this is a good place to start, especially when comparing scenarios and establishing the cost effectiveness of the interventions with human health estimates as a baseline.
  • The results of this methodology are as good as the inputs. The more detailed the analysis on the spatial distribution of the pollution levels for various scenarios and exposure levels based on the population distribution, the better the results.
  • A literature search of similar studies in the region and the methodologies applied will help better the equation.
For more details http://www.urbanemissions.info

Also see

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Co-Benefits: Management Options for Local Pollution & GHG Emissions Control

While discussing the co-benefits, it is important to understand two things. (a) Economic, social, and environmental growth (triple bottom line) – occurs first in the urban centers (b) The urban centers will be the first to react to any policy and regulation changes on emission control – local and global.


Focusing on global emissions alone will not be enough - we need to get out of this pervasive either-or thinking. Local pollution and global climate change are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they are meant to be tackled together. One without the other will not work. It’s a matter of simple mathematics and increasing the effectiveness of the interventions via co-benefits.

Due to regulations and compliance issues for urban centers – industrial and residential, the primary driver for any policy intervention remains the local air pollution. It is important to note that reducing local air pollution via technical, policy, or economic interventions, leads to co-benefits reducing not only the particulate pollution but also regional pollutants such as sulfur dioxide causing acid rain or carbon dioxide leading to climate change.

Point being, for an effective strategy towards a low carbon society, actions need to be customized and addressed at the local level, with local priorities at hand.

Full paper on "Co-Benefit Options" for urban Asia is available as SIM Working Papers @ http://www.urbanemissions.info/simair

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Air Quality - Science and Application (Conference)

International Conference on Air Quality - Science and Application (formerly known as the Urban Air Quality Conference) will take place on 24-27 March 2009, Istanbul, Turkey.

The conference is being organised by the University of Hertfordshire and the Istanbul Technical University with support from a number of international organizations including World Meteorological Organization (WMO), American Meteorological Society (AMS), Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA), COST 728, TUBITEK and SHELL.

Details @ http://www.airqualityconference.org/

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Air Pollution Exchange in China

Newly minted environment exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai will allow Chinese companies to trade industrial air pollutants

Also see
  • So2 Exchange program
  • Acid Rain

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Comprehensive Climate Glossary

The links for climate glossary are taken from RealClimate (blog). This is not an extensive list, but a good start.
Also see

Sensing Air Quality at 2008 Olympics (Interactive Maps)

Hosted by Associated press, here is the link to "Sensing Air Quality at 2008 Olympics" in Beijing. The interactive maps provide pictorial view of Olympic stadium for every day, along with air pollution else where in China and the measures undertaken to control air pollution.


Also see

India Environmental Portal (by CSE)

The India Environment Portal represents an effort to provide a comprehensive, open, virtual information resource centre to promote informed decision-making and environmentally sustainable practices. It brings together a vast repository of information resources on environment, including news, feature articles, opinions, data, reports and documents, book abstracts, and links to institutions and government bodies.

A key feature of the portal is its use of a comprehensive thesaurus of more than 7000 environmental and geographic terms. All information in the portal is manually tagged using these keywords, which allow users to track each resource not just by the subject but where it is located and who is the agent involved.

A key purpose of the portal is to aggregate, organise and make public much of the information on environment that is regularly produced by research institutions, government bodies, NGOs, universities, the mass media, and experts, among others. Developed as a people’s portal, this initiative aims to actively collate and exchange data, research and information from people working in the field, in campaigns, in scientific institutions, in research and in industry. The green directory, for instance, identifies key institutions working in the field of environment and serves as a gateway to such institutions by linking to their websites. Over time, these institutions will, we hope, become joint collaborators and partners so that their issues are also highlighted and disseminated.

People look not just for pieces of information but overviews on the critical issues as well as updated information on latest developments, policies and resources. Together with news and events, the portal features an indepth section, with backgrounders, analysis and other resource materials on specific subjects.

In order to facilitate public access to environmental information, the massive resources of the Centre for Science and Environment have been made public in the first phase of the portal's development. This includes the entire archive of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth – roughly 40,000 researched articles. These in-depth articles were earlier available only to subscribers of the magazine. The portal has applied for all Center for Science & Environment -related content in the portal to be copyrighted under the Creative Commons license.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Options to Reduce Smoke (Indoor Air Pollution)

HEDON (Household Energy Network) compiled a list of options to reduce smoke (to control the indoor air pollution).

Categories of options listed are
  • Reducing the need to burn fuel
  • Keeping away from the smoke
  • Venting the smoke from the cooking environment
  • Burning the fuel cleanly
  • Using an alternative fuel that is easier to burn cleanly
This is very relevant to the policy makers, with problems and solutions listed together, to implement the best possible & cost effective measure. Authors note that these classifications include a vast range of technologies and interventions, so the information is not exhaustive.

Also see

How it All Ends (YouTube Video)



This video on YouTube is worth a thousand words... presents the rationals and risks for action and inaction towards climate change !!

GHG Inventory 1990-2008 for European Community

"Annual European Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2006 and Inventory Report 2008" (May 2008), by European Environment Agency

[Full Report]

This is an annual report, prepared by the European Community (EU-15 and EU-27) and submitted to UNFCCC, to report GHG emissions and trends from various economic sectors (energy industries, transport, industrial processes, agriculture, LULUCF, solvent extractions, waste, and others).

Total GHG emissions, without LULUCF, in the EU-27 decreased by 7.72 % between 1990 and 2006 (430 million tonnes CO2 equivalents). Emissions decreased by 0.3 % (-14 million tonnes CO2 equivalents) between 2005 and 2006.

Also see

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

3D Map of Air Pollution in London

A great example of 3D exploration of air pollution in London.

In July 2006, an interactive three-dimensional map that allows users to "fly" above London to see pollution hotspots was launched by the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, at the University College London and King's College. The easy-to-use tool allows transport and urban planners, as well as the general public, to zoom in on different areas to see how clean particular neighborhoods are. It is the first time air pollution for an entire city has been related to the built environment. The map also provides projections of air quality up to 2010, taking into account measures adopted at local and national government levels to improve the air Londoners breathe.

"London Needs to Work on Air Quality Too" Olympics special on BBC Sports (August 4th, 2008).

Air Pollution Analysis - Models vs. Methodology

For air pollution analysis, irrespective of the models that exist, their advantages and disadvantages, their availability or their ease to execute, the problem has always been the “methodology”. If a calculator was provided, people would jump on it to put some numbers and come up with an answer, especially, when the credibility of the modeling numbers is at risk.

Any of the models in common use, such as HEAT by ICLEI, or MOVES, or COPERT, or Air-QUIS by NILU, have been around for years and a number of countries or cities (in Americas, Europe, Asia, or Africa) have applied them to their fullest extent (not included here some specialized models for emissions, dispersion, or impact assessments). Most in the decision making process at local, national, and international level, at some level, are familiar with one or all of these models and given the right data, these models will provide an immense pool of knowledge and a commendable tool for customization with local needs. The key word, however, is “data”.

There is need for a clear distinction required between the "models" and "methodology". A "methodology" could mean a fundamental equation, focusing on "what is essential" to arrive at a decision, while a "model" will focus on "what is needed" to arrive at a decision. A varying a degree of requirements !!

For example, Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) exercise - 17 cities have BRT and 33+ are preparing for one. I haven’t seen any analysis of all the projects, but I am sure the agencies and bureaus involved in the construction did a thorough scrutiny of the current traffic patterns and what changes will work best. If we dig a little deeper, this was possible because the projects, Bogota (a good example) aside, teams spent some "time" monitoring the patterns, preparing the feasibility studies, etc. Now, of the 50 cities, if all were invited to one place and asked to present the BRT analysis, all them will present and probably do a good job doing it. If the same cities were asked, how many have prepared a vehicular emissions inventory for the city, probably very few will answer?

What I see is the existence of a "methodology" (BRT) to follow and do the necessary calculations.

I don’t want to single out the transport sector in this context. Same goes with the industrial methodologies and pollution control options - as simple as the CFL light bulbs. At the lowest level, the campaigns and public awareness make a lot of difference in making the necessary switch from the regular candescent bulb to CFL. CFLs existed in the market for a long time, at a higher price however. Only with demonstrations and examples that the switch was possible and show that on a long run, people will save money. The initial investment was higher than the regular, but people understand the difference now. I am not economist, but demand-supply curve plays a role, with growing demand and higher productions, the supply increased (more manufacturers entered the market) and the CFL rates are lower than what they used to be.

Again, the math was made simple between what you pay for the electricity based on your usage and what you get out of the new system. Sometimes, for a household - though the environmental and social (intangible) benefits outweigh the monetary savings (tangible), the decision making is difficult, because there isn't a set methodology to follow, except for comparison of an old and new model (bulb). However, an example and simple methodology will help the decision making easy – whether it is changing a bulb or a BRT for a 10 km road.

When dealing with air pollution, given the number of sources ranging from household (including garbage burning) to transport, what cities need is an emission inventory to compare the baselines and the benefits of the interventions (albeit at the city level). Access to data means better knowledge base, improved management decisions, and a healthy environment (said and discussed many a times). We have hundreds of models and ton of experience – big and small – complex and simple - I think what needs to be presented is a methodology – a fill in the blanks exercise for cities to follow.

Of course, at the end of the day, the reliability of the data is a problem and always questionable - even if it is number of vehicles on the road (from the registrations) or the vehicle kilometers traveled by a single vehicle. But, we have to start some where to get the cities organized. Similarly, the industries or domestic sector – there is no single answer for amount of coal or oil consumed in a month or a year. Technically speaking all the pollution control boards should know the current levels and have some back of the envelope calculations – then we also face the problems of information sharing and coordination between departments.

Most of the times, the modeling of emissions, concentrations, scenarios, and analysis, has been limited to the academic world (at least in the details). For every city, there is at least one university or one professor or one student, who is conducting some level of research towards estimating pollutants and modeling – question of how credible or reliable the data, is secondary. Modeling has never been easy !!

Among the frequently asked questions or comments that top the chart are
  1. Emission factors need to be city specific - can’t and shouldn’t argue with that. Now, if there is a city which doesn’t have any resources or haven’t ever done an emission testing, should they wait for a year or more before they develop an emission inventory?
  2. Data collection is hard and the models require a lot of data - can’t argue with that either. All our models are data hungry. Even the SIM-air, as simple as I claim it to be, still needs some level of input from the participants. And even that is hard to get. Invariably the question of reliability comes in – which is a good, because we need to know the uncertainties in the data before we crunch the number. Not that the data collection is hard, I believe it’s the data sharing that hard. Main reason being the segregated departments – energy, transport, environment, and urban.
  3. Resources (personnel and financial) are limited and timing is everything - putting together information in a coherent manner is a time consuming effort and making the necessary analysis in a timely fashion is key to a good decision making process. For the decision makers, if there is a nice button driven tool available and as long as it doesn’t ask many questions, it’s the best. But how often is it true or easy?
Some efforts are required (and necessary) in building more interactive "methodologies" and use the existing "models" as guidelines to make the necessary analysis. At some level, we know what works and what doesn’t. It’s a matter of putting down steps to develop a methodology that cities can (and will) follow.

Also see

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Beijing Still Hazy !!

Reuters reported today, "Beijing still hazy with three days to go".

This is after a series of control measures in place, like shutting down half of the 3+ million cars and more 200 most polluting industries in the city.

The hazy reports are based on the pictorial evidence and the air pollution index (API) published by the Beijing pollution bureau. This API is based on two main pollutants - particulates and ozone, besides the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are also integral part of the particulates and ozone formation.

Here is a report saying "Cars are not enough". An article on April 16th, 2007, "Improving Air Quality for 2008 Beijing Olympics" states that the problem with Beijing air lies, not entirely with the vehicular emissions, since the ozone (dependent on NOx and VOC emissions) is one of the key elements for haze formation. These articles argue that, "the VOCs from small factories, emissions from heavy vehicles (trucks) are worst during the night, since trucks are banned from the city during the day. Studies have shown that Beijing's pollution levels are highest in the early morning, due to early morning ozone formation dependent on NOx and VOC emissions during the night. This would not be the case if most of the pollution came from passenger cars, which operate mainly during the day. But it is good evidence that the chief sources of pollution are the VOC-producing factories and trucks operating at night."

Here is a report by Science Daily on July 17th, 2008, which argues that it's more to do with the meteorology than shutting down industries in the city. The percentage contributions are unknown, but the industries with their large chimneys contribute more to outside Beijing than inside, and similarly, the industries in the vicinity of the Beijing (such as Tainjin, Shijiazhuang, and Taiyuan, all of which fall with in 100 km) are more important and probably contributing to the pollution levels of Beijing. At the end, it is a borderline case between meteorology and shutting down industries within Beijing.

See my blog on July 31st, with news articles reporting the (then) latest on interventions in place for clear skies for the 2008 Olympic games.

Transportation Policies & Strategies for Urban India

The Ministry of Urban Development of India, published in May, 2008, the "Study on Traffic and Transportation Policies and Strategies in Urban Areas in India".

The report covers current status and trends in urban transportation for 30 cities and presents an analysis of various indices covering vehicular growth, congestion, walkability, safety, public transport, and infrastructure (see Table 5.11).

Analytical work of interest are the relationships of various indices with reference to city population, a forecast of growth rates, and their affect on future urban transportation investment needs.

Full Report
Executive Summary

Also see

CDM for Large Power Generation Projects?

In India Together in July, 2008, Mr. Shripad Dharmadhikary reports, "most hydro power projects don't need the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits to be built. But a gross mockery is being made of the basic principles and understanding of the Kyoto Protocol, with no real cuts in emissions."

This article summarizes the CDM mechanism and its application in India, focusing on the hydro power projects, and questions the logic behind awarding large sums of carbon finance to projects that are already under construction or completed construction. And why hydro, which is already carbon neutral, when compared to the thermal power plants coming into production?

Do large power generation projects need carbon finance support for completion? Is this in violation of additionality clause, that CDM will support those projects, which otherwise would not come into being. The amount of finances involved in the power plant construction and O&M, in some cases, the CDM accounts for peanuts. Then, why the fancy for CDM in every project?

There is also an approved methodology for new thermal power plants (ACM0013) - "Consolidated baseline and monitoring methodology for new grid connected fossil fuel fired power plants using a less GHG intensive technology".

When a new power plant is commissioned, isn't it logical to use the best technology that pollutes less - locally and globally? Then why introduce a methodology for new plants as an incentive. There are other approved methodologies for existing power plants, which result in increasing the efficiency of the boilers by co-generation, replacement with better boilers, saving heat losses, or even adding incinerators (for waste, etc). These seem OK.

The author quotes, "As a result of such distortions, a mechanism that is in any case fundamentally flawed is being further discredited with blatant misuse and abuse." and "The person who anyway always walked, is asking to be paid saying he walked behind the bus and saved money"

Also see

Monday, August 04, 2008

Better Air Quality (BAQ) Workshop

The 5th Better Air Quality (BAQ) workshop organized by the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities will take place this year in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 12, 13, and 14, 2008. This is the largest air quality focused workshop in Asia.

See www.baq2008.org for details on program and registration.

This year’s theme “Air Quality and Climate Change: scaling up win-win solutions for Asia” is a reflection of two important trends that are shaping the future direction of urban air quality management in Asia.

Previous workshops were held in Hong Kong (2002), Manila, Phillipines (2003), Agra, India (2004), and Jogjakarta, Indonesia (2006).

What a Waste?

Key air pollutants include particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lead (Pb), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3), and ozone (O3) (an important secondary pollutant formed due to the chemical interaction of the various pollutants mentioned above).

Fossil fuel combustion (e.g., combustion for domestic cooking and heating, power generation, industrial processes, and motor vehicles) is typically a major source of air pollution. In addition, the burning of biomass such as firewood, agricultural and animal waste contributes a large proportion of the pollution in some urban areas, and these traditional sources are often neglected (and difficult to estimate) through emission inventories.

Among many of the sources of air pollution, one important non-traditional source is the burning of household and industrial waste, though prohibited by law. There are regular incidences of waste burning (following the road sweeping or in the residential corridors where all the waste gets accumulated or even at the landfills) and is a common sight among the developing country cities and rural areas. Some of the direct emissions, such as PM and other toxic substances, depending on the mix of the waste, are hard to quantify and is accompanied by a large uncertainty when dealing with estimation of contribution garbage burning to the ambient air quality.


1. Tyre burning in Kathmandu (Photo from Clean Air Network, Nepal) 2. Roadside burning of trash collected in Hyderabad, India (Photo by Dr. Gertler, DRI) and 3. Roadside fugitive burning in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

There is no one solution for this problem. As uncertain the the source is, the solutions are as wide from household to the industrial sector. At least, in case of the industries, there are set norms for waste management and how the waste is recycled or reused. However, in case of the households, the main solution is having a proper waste management program. Though, most of the cities management proper landfills and garbage collection programs, a substantial amount of the garbage ends up along the roadside collection bins and gets burnt. The burning could partly be because of the collection agency or the roadside sweepers, which/who might find burning the waste as an easier and faster way of getting rid the source.

Before we go after the institutional settings and how the garbage collection system and landfills operate, one should focus on the source itself and how to reduce the waste entering the collection bins. If the focus is on the household sector, the garbage can be better used or re-used in multiple ways and sharing here some information in doing the same.

For the biomass (e.g., vegetables and other biodegradable substances), best solution is composting and use the product in the gardens. See: www.dailydump.org for details how to use traditional pottery for waste management in the house (operated out of Bangalore, India). More on composting methods is detailed @ Journey to Forever.

See the movie "Garbage, the revolution starts at home" and read more at their website.

A good overview of Recycle and Waste is presented by Dept. of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, UK, here.

One of the most recycled material is paper, and the demand for waste paper is high and an article reviewing this demand is presented in Science Daily (July 16th, 2007).

Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

Any methodology to quantify the state of the environment at national level is never an easy task. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is developed by staff at the Yale and Columbia Universities, in collaboration with a number of agencies and individuals (listed on their website)

EPI 2008 Press Release:
The Environmental Performance Index has been released at a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on Wednesday, January 23 at 3:00 pm local time in the Congress Hall Press Centre. Professor Dan Esty, one of the EPI’s lead authors, discussed the 2008 EPI rankings and analysis.

This is an indicator covers a wide range of sectors and the programs are rated for their performance in each sector. Details on the weights for various parameters and the methodology is available here.

The report ranks 149 countries on 25 indicators tracked across six established policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Pollution, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Climate Change. The EPI identifies broadly-accepted targets for environmental performance and measures how close each country comes to these goals. As a quantitative gauge of pollution control and natural resource management results, the Index provides a powerful tool for improving policy making and shifting environmental decision making onto firmer analytic foundations.

Among the 149 countries ranked, Switzerland ranks first and India @ 120th.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

CARMA - Carbon Monitoring for Action

I saw this website "CARMA - Carbon Monitoring for Action" in 2007 and since it was made public, the databases, information sharing, and the presentation has improved and changed.

From the website:
"At its core, Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) is a massive database containing information on the carbon emissions of over 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies worldwide. Power generation accounts for 40% of all carbon emissions in the United States and about one-quarter of global emissions. CARMA is the first global inventory of a major, emissions-producing sector of the economy.

CARMA also aggregates data on individual plants to the level of operating companies, parent corporations, and several geographic entities (continents, countries, states/provinces, and cities worldwide, with additional reports for U.S. metro areas, congressional districts, and counties). The database is updated quarterly to reflect changes in ownership, construction, renovation, planned expansions, and plant retirements. CARMA is meant to be a repository of the best available information on power sector carbon emissions.
"

According to the website, India currently emits 583 million tons of CO2 from 2,147 power plants, of which 377 are tagged as red alerts, producing 597 million MWh of electricity. Readers can also download (and analyze individually), the database of the power plants, along with fuel consumption (by type) and power generation capacity for each country.

Dr. David Wheeler, Senior Fellow at Center for Global Development, announced recently that the CARMA 2.0 will be released later this summer, with improved methodologies for CO2 calculations and better geographical database.

Working paper by Wheeler et al., on CARMA calculations and methodology is available @ "Calculating CARMA: Global Estimation of CO2 Emissions from the Power Sector"

It's All About Carbon - Cartoon Series on NPR

In Inconvenient Truth, the movie, I have seen some innovative and a new trend in presentation style - a mix of cartoon and live action clips to make the best of the information available to us and take the message of climate crisis to the masses.

A 101 version, explaining the process of global warming and the role of carbon dioxide is now available as a five part cartoon series "Global Warming: It's all about carbon" at NPR's Climate Connection page, developed by Robert Krulwich.

Episode 1: It's all about carbon
Episode 2: Making carbon bonds
Episode 3: Breaking carbon bonds
Episode 4: Carbon in love
Episode 5: What do we do?

This is good educational material.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Why "Simplicity Sells"?


David Pogue, is the New York Times Columnist, often seen writing on technology, software, and new tools in the markets. Below is link to his presentation at TED series in 2006 on "Why Simplicity Sells". This presentation is more on the emerging technologies (some might find it more focused on PC and Mac) and simple modifications to the existing or new tools, can be more ergonomic.

One viewer commented on Daivd Pogue's presentation saying - ".. answering to the question 'What is essential?' is the same thinking about what people need. For the majority of users, that would be simplicity... we want software that allows us to do things in a minimum of steps and find things quickly. In that sense, yes, simplicity sells. A lot."

*****

The topic of our interest is the air pollution and management. This has never been a "simpler" task to crack. The air pollution modeling is the key step to better understand the local pollution sources, their emission strengths, and the potential to control the emissions for better ambient air quality and human health. I am not restricting this discussion to one pollutant, but in general the information and modeling of any of the pollutants (PM, SO2, NOx, CO, VOCs, or any of the GHGs) and their detrimental affects on human health is critical to sound and comprehensive pollution management plan for any city.

In order to make informed choices amongst the bewildering array of options, the city managers need to be able to analyze these options from an environmental, economic, social, and political economy viewpoint. All this requires flexible analysis frameworks to evaluate options as they emerge, which, in turn, need substantial quantities of relevant information on various aspects of air quality and characteristics of management options.

A number of tools (with varying degree of complexities) have been developed to analyze air pollution and benefits of management options. There are many institutions, all over the world, that have developed many useful models to simulate various parts of the air pollution modeling cycle. Of course, it would be excellent for all cities to develop a detailed knowledge base and have a working version of all the key appropriate models. However, there are a number of problems in the developing world. These include problems with:
  • All Existing models are usually very data hungry, “super-specialized”, expensive, and inflexible to the context of developing countries (a summary of existing models is presented in this article)
  • Environmental agencies in the developing cities are often young, with inadequate skills, interaction, and capacity (for example, most agencies function as a regulator instead of decision maker, which consumes most of the man power for compliance analysis instead of knowledge base development)
  • Institutional problems are very common in the developing world (very initial public, bureaucratic, and political interest in environment and with competing demands for scarce financial resources; Decision-making is often ad-hoc and crisis-driven and there is often little time to develop a suite of high-end models for a bewildering array of options)
  • Often detailed studies undertaken on a few parameters without a feel for how important these parameters are in the larger picture
  • Updated relevant database that is accessible and of the required quality and consistency

Without undermining the importance of the existing models and the knowledge they share from the applications around the world, there is a need to develop simple and interactive tools for air quality management. The simplicity of a fundamental equation in developing the emissions inventory and evaluating their impact on the ambient air and human health, is still the basis for many of the cities in the developing world. Key is to establish a simple baseline to compare the future scenario or what can be done to improve the existing. Once a baseline is established, it will be a lot easier to complicate and further conduct detailed analysis on each of the parameters or under each of the emission sectors.

The SIM-air analytical tool "Simple Interactive Model for Better Air Quality" would aim to use the best available information and educated guesses to arrive at approximate “first-cut" estimates of key parameters (e.g. emissions from various sources based on logical criteria) and simulate the essence of interactions among emissions, dispersion, impacts and management options in an economic context.

Until a better understanding is established between "What is needed" and "What is available" to conduct air pollution analysis, yes, "Simplicity Sells". I think, most of the groups are still battling with "what is needed", instead of utilizing "what is available" to make that "first-cut".

Mobile Signals to Identify Congestion Zones

Recently, a company based in Bangalore, the Mapunity, partnered with India's largest cell phone network, Bharti Airtel, to gain access to records of every transaction on its system. Main goal of this venture was to devise solutions to urban traffic, at least qualitative real-time messages to inform the passengers on urban congestion levels and possible alternatives to avoid idling.

Methodology: Cell phones constantly relay data to local towers, even when they're not in use, so Mapunity can track the location of as many as 3 million (per city) in real time, giving the company a minute-by-minute snapshot of the city's traffic. When too many people crowd a given intersection, a red dot shows up on a map posted on the company's website. This information is also accessible by phone using designated codes for various junctions.


Traffic Information Systems are currently available for
1. Bangalore
2. Delhi
3. Hyderabad
4. Pune

It is important to note that this information service is not telling us how many people are on the road, but providing us with an indicator for traffic density along the corridors, in real time. Sometimes the corridors are congested not because of the number of cars or motorcycles on the road, but due to poor traffic management.

I think this is very innovative approach (as part of the intelligent transportation systems (ITS), see this article on ITS efforts in India) to use the mobile signals to track congestion and use that information, to guide the traffic flows via better traffic light coordination or inform the passengers before they plan their road trip (even saving 10 mins and idling on the road, means fuel saved and less air pollution to worry about).

At the institutional level, this information is very valuable in designating the congested vs non-congested corridors; which might help better coordinate bus service, where available and necessary. The information gathered, irrespective of the uncertainties involved (such as, this service using only one mobile network, not being able to fully differentiate between signals along the road with vendors or concentrated signals in a bus at a junction, some of which can be avoided over an average period) will provide qualitative assessment of the traffic flows in the city, information of rush hours, traffic speeds, and (over time) a database of information to analyze the traffic patterns for better urban planning.

An overview of possible interventions under ITS is available as part of the GTZ's Sustainable Transport Source Book Section 4E.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Four Equations for Vehicular Emissions Inventory

A number of studies, in developed and developing countries, apportioning the sources of air pollution put the transport sector atop – both from direct exhaust and indirect road dust. Increasing number of vehicles on the road mean emissions will increase, air quality will only get worse; fuel use will go up, and instead of moving ahead, people will actually grind to a stop due to congestion, unless a series of actions are in place to not only control the traffic, but also improve the technology to control emissions.

For any decision to stand trial, it is important that it is based on some level of information and most of the developing country cities, lack the capacity to build a baseline. A variety of models are available in the market, with varying level of complexities, which allow cities to develop their inventory. Depending on the model, the data requirements could be intensive; only delaying the process of building a baseline. Figure (to the left) presents the common parameters used for vehicular emissions inventory development

A report explaining four ways to estimate emissions from vehicular activity in a city, using commonly available data with local authorities, is available for download @ www.urbanemissions.info. Note that this is not being proposed as an alternative to existing models, nor to undermine the integrity of the established models.

The four methods are
1. Using number of vehicles and kilometers traveled
2. Fuel consumption by vehicular mode
3. Passenger trips by mode and passenger kilometers traveled
4. Particulate pollution source apportionment

Figure below illustrates the four equations.


Each of the equations has their advantages and disadvantages in estimating the emissions. Depending on the available data, user can choose to utilize the best.

(authors interpretation)

This exercise is meant to jump start the analytical process by highlighting types of data required and how an inventory could possibility be built. Readers can also access example toolkits (VAPIS 1.01) to play with these equations and better understand possible complications

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Using Ballons to Visualize Air Pollution

The air pollution index (API) is either presented as a number or as a color representing "excellent" to "worse" API in the city or part of the city, depending on the resolution of the analysis. And most often, this number is displayed on a website or on a bulletin board or played during a news broadcast, which most people might miss to notice.

The AĆ©rophile balloon is the first of its kind and employs an innovative color-changing system to broadcast the API message in Paris, France.

This is an innovative and can't-miss direct public awareness technique to display air pollution levels in a city.

Details @ www.inhabitant.com

Air Pollution in Beijing, China


The air pollution index (API) runs from zero to 500 and divided in categories of "excellent" to "heavily polluted". Readings below 100 are generally considered safe. More details on API, methodology, and an application for US region is available @ Air-NOW program

An archive of API for Beijing, China, from 2004 to current is presented along with a WSJ article here

Similar efforts are underway to forecast air pollution in Beijing, China, in preparation for 2008 Olympic Games. A daily 3-day forecast of the main pollutants - particulates, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides in Beijing is presented @ http://www.beijingairquality.cn. Last week, this link was public, but now requires a login and password. Lets hope that this information will be open again.

Some interesting articles and links below

by TIME (May, 2008) - Airing out Beijing
by BBC (July 16th, 2008) - Beijing Pollution - facts and figures
by Science Daily (July 17th, 2008) - Outlook for Air Quality in Beijing is Borderline
by Science Daily (July 24th, 2008) - During Olympics, Cornell Scientists Will Study Air Quality in Beijing
by Wall Street Journal (July 29th, 2008) - Beijing Considers New Curbs for Air Pollution Reduction
by NY Times (July 29th, 2008) - In Beijing, Blue Skies Prove Hard to Achieve
by Guardian (UK) (July 29th, 2008) - Olympics Environment
by China Daily (July 30th, 2008) - Haze Doesn't Mean Poor Air Quality
by CNN (July 31st, 2008) - China Announces Emergency Pollution Plan
by Reuters (July 31st, 2008) - Confusing "Blue Skies"

Beijing Air Quality Measures by Phase

A compilation of air pollution news and information for 2008 Beijing Olympics is available @ Clean Air Iniative for Asian Cities

Walkability Scores for Your Neighbourhood

San Francisco, New York and Boston are the United States' most walkable cities, according to new rankings from a website that evaluates how easy it is to live in the nation's cities and neighborhoods without a car (Reuters)

For details on methodology and how your neighborhood ranks check http://walkscore.com

An application of Walkability index developed and applied in the developing countries (Ahmedabad, India by Ms. Holly Krambeck, MIT) is available @ Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities; funded and piloted by the World Bank (Washington DC)

Air pollution, besides the infrastructure requirements, is one of the key indicators to score high on walkability.

In Asia Sentinal (July 19th, 2008) - Asia's Good Walks Spoiled, discusses walkability issues in Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and what is required in Asia... "perhaps the people at walkscore.com can take on this region next. We like to take a walk also and maybe they can tell us where to go."