Monday, March 28, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on March 20th, 2011)
REVE, March 27th, 2011
Wind energy in Asia.
Live Mint, March 27th, 2011
India and the world.
Express India, March 26th, 2011
In a first, hi-tech buses set to roll out in Lucknow.
The Hindu, March 26th, 2011
Pollution trade and cap scheme launched.
People's China Daily, March 25th, 2011
National standard to help clean up coastal pollution.
The Himalayan, March 25th, 2011
Reduction of black carbon emission stressed.
The State, March 25th, 2011
What’s so scary about nuclear power plants?
Express Buzz, March 25th, 2011
Varsity teams trained in air quality monitoring in India.
The Guardian, March 24th, 2011
Why don't governments push for more hydrogen cars?
The Hindu, Business Line, March 24th, 2011
Environment Ministry begins consultations for emissions trading scheme.
Bloomberg Business World, March 24th, 2011
China's search for clean fuel leads to W.Va. University.
China Dialogue, Mach 24th, 2011
Behind China’s green goals.
The City Fix, March 24th, 2011
Bicycles Empower Women and Boost Economic Development in Uganda.
The City Fix, March 24th, 2011
New Study: Car Ownership Not Essential to Everyday Commute.
The City Fix, March 24th, 2011
Lagos to Expand Bus Rapid Transit System.
Indian Express, March 23rd, 2011
Switch Board, March 23rd, 2011
The Next Five Years of Clean Energy and Climate Protection in China.
UB Post, March 22nd, 2011
Ulaanbaatar Air Pollution Linked to Public Health Crisis.
Environmental Expert, March 22nd, 2011
Latin America spurs action into low-carbon development.
Science Daily, March 21st, 2011
When It Comes to the Environment, Education Affects Our Actions.
Xinhua Net, March 21st, 2011
China to Improve Innovative Environment.
Reuters, March 21st, 2011
Top Ten U.S. and China Collaborations in Cleantech.
People's Daily Online, March 21st, 2011
Dusts back flow continue to contaminate Beijing's air.
New York Times, March 21st, 2011
Campaign to Fight Air Pollution in Hong Kong Gets Visual.
The Hindu, Business Line, March 21st, 2011
Resources for urban India.
Daily Tech, March 20th, 2011
China's Solar Greenhouses Allow Cheap, Efficient Growing in Winter.
Shanghai Daily, March 20th, 2011
Car plate prices reach 3-year high.
Science Daily, March 20th, 2011
Think Globally, but Act Locally When Studying Plants, Animals, Global Warming.
The Citizen, March 19th, 2011
Urbanization in Africa: A megatrend for business.
Journal Gazette, March 19th, 2011
Something in the air.
The Guardian, March 18th, 2011
What are the main types of carbon capture and storage technology?
Thursday, March 24, 2011
A leading anti-pollution campaign group in Hong Kong is deploying a new weapon in the fight for clean air in this Asian financial hub: art.
Enlisting the support of 40 artists and the auction house Sotheby’s, the Clean Air Network has organized an auction of 51 environment-inspired works of modern art in what it says is the first awareness and fund-raising event of its kind.
Most of the pieces went on display Monday in the upscale International Finance Center shopping mall in Hong Kong’s financial district, where they will remain until March 27. They will go under the Sotheby’s hammer April 4, where they will form part of the auction house’s twice-yearly sale of contemporary Asian art .
Many of the artists, who include well-known names from Hong Kong and elsewhere, created works especially for the event, donating them to the Clean Air Network’s fight against pollution.
BSI Investment Advisors, which is part of the Italian insurance giant Generali, donated two more works by the photographer and video artist Jiang Zhi, each estimated by Sotheby’s to be worth as much as 70,000 Hong Kong dollars, or nearly $9,000.
The artworks include sculptures, paintings and photographs. But all illustrate environmental issues and problems, like smog, waste, climate change and the destruction of natural habitats.
Perhaps the most striking work is a pair of gray lungs standing 83 centimeters, or 32 inches, tall, crafted by the Chinese artist Ma Han. Made of fiberglass, rice and car paint, illuminated and covered with tiny human figures, the piece could fetch as much as 150,000 dollars, Sotheby’s estimates.
If Sotheby’s estimates are realized, the 51 works could raise more than 1.9 million dollars in total.
All this, and the fact that Sotheby’s is offering its auction expertise free, highlights the serious support that the campaign for clean air is getting from increasingly high-profile names in the city.
The Clean Air Network has tried imaginative approaches to campaigning before, including a spoof infomercial featuring the heartthrob Hong Kong actor Daniel Wu selling canisters of “fresh air,” which became an instant hit among YouTube users in Hong Kong.
Now, the group is roping modern art into its cause.
“The auction is not just an elite exercise for opinion leaders but a new way to approach the general public,” said Joanne Ooi, chief executive of the Clean Air Network. “Art is undoubtedly less daunting and more appealing than activism. On top of that, such a public show of support by well-known corporate partners Sotheby’s and BSI will definitely mainstream the clean air issue.”
Kevin Ching, chief executive of Sotheby’s Asia, said the auction house had decided to support the event because of the deteriorating air quality Hong Kong has seen over the past few decades.
Pollution levels in some mainland Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, are thought to be even worse than in this city of seven million. But the air in Hong Kong is bad enough now to persuade some people to leave for cleaner places and to risk hurting Hong Kong’s reputation as one of Asia’s most advanced cities.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has cautioned for years that the poor air quality is making it hard to persuade some expatriates, especially those with children, to move to or stay in Hong Kong.
A series of surveys by recruitment and relocation advisers has backed up this point.
Last July, Hong Kong’s medical profession added its voice with an urgent appeal to the government to do more about the poor air quality.
The “Clean Air Auction” display at the International Finance Center mall comes exactly a year after pollution levels in Hong Kong went off the scale, streaking past the upper end of a 500-point government air pollution index.
A sandstorm sweeping in from mainland China was largely responsible for the heavy pollution last spring, and smog blowing in from the industrial zone in the nearby Pearl River Delta is blamed for much of Hong Kong’s pollution.
But campaigners, scientists and many ordinary residents argue that the authorities could — and should — do more to contain air pollution generated within Hong Kong itself.
On Monday afternoon, roadside measuring stations in the central financial district showed a reading of 64. That may seem low compared with the 500-plus levels last March — but even 64 is defined as “high” by the city’s environment department.
Outdated trucks and buses generate as much as 90 percent of roadside pollution and help make Hong Kong’s air three times as bad as that of New York and twice as bad as that of London, the Clean Air Network contends. And a recent study by the University of Hong Kong linked the city’s poor air quality to hundreds of deaths a year.
William Furniss, a photographer from London who has lived in Hong Kong since 1993, said Monday that there were only a few days in the year now when the air in Hong Kong is clear enough for professional photography.
His flame-and-skyline image, created especially for the auction, could raise 25,000 dollars, according to Sotheby’s estimates.
“We have to make people much more aware of this problem,” said Lam Tung Pang, a Hong Kong artist whose paint-and-fabric image of a sad-looking polar bear was estimated to fetch as much as 75,000 dollars at the auction.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on March 13th, 2011)
Phil Star, March 18th, 2011
Sandstorm from Mongolia dumps dust in Beijing.
Financial Express, March 17th, 2011
Long tailbacks amid curb on rickshaw movements in Dhaka.
Al Jazeera, March 17th, 2011
Something in the air in Kabul.
Japan Times, March 17th, 2011
Calculating the impact of aerosols.
Switch Board, March 16th, 2011
New Study Sheds Light on Air Quality Impacts of the BP Oil Spill.
KCET News, March 16th, 2011
Breathe Deep (and then thank the EPA that you can).
Times of India, March 16th, 2011
BRT Part II to come up in E Delhi.
Japan Times, March 15th, 2011
The environmental link to economic growth.
New York Times, March 15th, 2011
In Afghan Kilns, a Cycle of Debt and Servitude.
The Independent, March 15th, 2011
90pc of vehicles plying the streets of Dhaka emit fumes.
Mudgee Guardian, March 14th, 2011
UK expert calls for better air monitoring.
CSE, March 14th, 2011
CSE welcomes environment ministry ‘no’ to Nirma factory in Gujarat.
Huffington Post, March 14th, 2011
Power Plant Air Pollution Kills 13,000 People Per Year, Coal-Fired Are Most Hazardous.
Green Prophet, March 14th, 2011
Tehran Residents Complain About Air Pollution and Water Quality.
The Washington Post, March 13th, 2011
EPA chief Lisa Jackson perpetually on Capitol Hill hot seat.
China Daily, March 13th, 2011
Senior official calls for cap on coal consumption.
Xinhua Net, March 12th, 2011
Beijing to tighten vehicle emission standards, as automobile number hits 5 million.
Xinhua Net, March 12th, 2011
China to further cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides.
Xinhua Net, March 8th, 2011
China aims to boost industries along Yangtze River.
China Daily, March 8th, 2011
New car rules for officials.
Yahoo News, February 21st, 2011
New study cites dangers of air pollution to commuters, drivers.
Business Mirror, February 10th, 2011
Manila is the most polluted city in the Philippines.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Public transport cuts will result in even more scooters in Amsterdam, Fietsersbond, Milieucentrum Amsterdam and Vélo Mondial warn. Today they will present Alderman Eric Wiebes with a petition against scooter nuisance singed by almost six thousand people.
The initiators want the most polluting motors banned; they want all scooters banned from bicycle paths and they want stricter enforcement of the speed limit. Research found that 94% of scooters on bicycle paths speed.
The Fietsersbond – a cyclists’ organisation – and Milieucentrum Amsterdam – an environmental organisation – have received many complaints on scooters. “Danger, polluting exhaust fumes and noise, a minority of road users is doing disproportionate damage to the peace and quite and to the health of all Amsterdammers”, Director Jupijn Haffmans of the Milieucentrum Amsterdam said.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
WATA POOR, Afghanistan — The labor boss stood looking down at a man and his four sons squatting in the dirt, the boys mechanically rolling and slapping mud as they made line after line of dull gray bricks.
“See, there’s a sad story,” the boss, Gul Bacha, said as he pointed to the oldest son, Nick Muhammad, 18.
He said the young man had twice escaped to join the Afghan Army, but when his father needed another loan from Mr. Bacha, the boss forced him to bring his son back to work.
“His father came to me asking to borrow more money,” Mr. Bacha said. “I told him: ‘No. You must bring your son back here. Or else bring me the money you owe me and leave the house I have provided you.’ ”
The young Mr. Muhammad listened impassively to the tale of his unhappy return to the kiln in Nangarhar Province.
“I was 7 years old when I started this work,” he said later, when the boss was gone. “My family owed 10,000 rupees then. Today, we owe 150,000 rupees.”
The Muhammads are indentured servants, bought and paid for by Gul Bacha, who purchased their contracts from a kiln owner in Pakistan, where they had been living as refugees. Like tens of thousands of Afghans, the Muhammads are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty that keeps them indebted to their employers — a situation common at many of the dusty brick kilns that dot the countryside, as well as in some other industries, particularly in rural areas.
After decades of violence, Afghanistan has few banks, and the people who labor at the kilns would almost surely be too poor to qualify for loans. Instead, they borrow from their employers, who generally pay them pennies an hour for their grueling labor — barely enough to survive and too little to pay off debts that only grow with each passing year.
For a vast majority of workers, there is no escape — for them or for their children, who are bound by their parents’ contracts. Their best hope is that the boss will sell their contract to another kiln, where they might be paid more. No matter what, the loan will follow them. In some cases, children are held as their parents’ collateral.
It is illegal for children younger than 15 to work long hours or do heavy labor, and the government says it is trying to provide education and help to families so they do not have to send their children to work at the kilns.
The use of child labor is also a concern of NATO forces in Afghanistan, particularly those involved in reconstruction programs. Yet kiln owners and contractors say bricks made by children are routinely used in NATO projects.
A spokesman for the international security force in Afghanistan, Lt. Bashon W. Mann, said that the force conducted frequent inspections at construction sites and that the coalition had no knowledge of having used building materials made by children.
At the kiln where Nick Muhammad works, his father, Zar Muhammad, 55, said he was haunted by guilt that his children would inherit his debt. His two youngest sons, Gul, 7, and Neyaz, 8, worked beside him in the mud as he spoke.
Neyaz’s hands fly with astonishing speed. But the boy looks worn down, exhausted by 12-hour days that start before dawn.
“I don’t like this job,” he said. “I want to go to school and to become a doctor to serve my people and my country.”
There are 90 kilns in the Surkhrod District alone, with an average of 150 to 200 children working in each one, according to Hajji Mirwais, director of the brick kiln union here.
“These children in the kilns work in a state of near slavery,” said Sarah Crowe, Unicef’s regional chief of communication for South Asia.
“Not only do they suffer from the extreme weather, they are breathing in the smoke from the kilns every day,” Ms. Crowe said. “It leads to one of the highest death rates in the country from pneumonia and acute respiratory infections.”
Zar Muhammad’s troubles began 30 years ago when he took a loan from a kiln owner to marry. (The elaborate marriage and funeral ceremonies expected by Afghans frequently cost several years’ worth of wages, forcing many people to take out loans that they must work off.)
Mr. Muhammad soon realized that his weekly earnings in the kiln left little or no money to pay down the principal. As his family grew, he — like other workers here — found himself having to borrow more money to pay for medicine for his children and other basic needs. His debt to the owner grew greater by the year.
The kiln owner pays Mr. Muhammad and his four sons about $10 for the 2,500 bricks they make in an average day.
The owner can usually make $160 selling that many bricks.
The kiln manager and labor boss defend their practices, saying they have helped many workers who, like Mr. Muhammad, were Afghan refugees stranded in brick kilns in Pakistan.
“They were hostages in Pakistan,” Mr. Bacha said. “I paid their loans and brought them back to their own country. Once they finish their loan, then they can leave.”
He also noted that owners provided houses, electricity, beds, blankets, water and cash for workers’ family expenses, and served as a safety net with more loans when family members fell ill.
The workers say the houses and handouts are a blessing and a curse, keeping them alive but eternally bound to the kilns and the difficult, low-paying jobs.
“We are slaves here because when you owe someone money, then of course you’re a slave,” said Mir Ali, former director of the All Afghanistan labor union, who works in the kilns with his children. “If we try to raise our voice, then the owner of the brick kilns will tell us to empty their house and go from here.”
Sad Kibir Bacha, the district governor for Surkhrod, said he had recently been transferred to the area and was not familiar with the conditions the workers labored under. He estimated, however, that at least 5,000 children worked in the kilns in his district.
“I know this not good for kids,” he said in an interview. “But we have to build our buildings, build our country.” He added that the work provided income for the children’s families.
Even Ms. Crowe of Unicef agrees, to a point. “It is easy to say, ‘Take them from the kilns,’ ” she said, but added, “If you take away supplemental income from a poor family, then that has to be replaced with something.”
The young Mr. Muhammad wants to get married soon. But he looks at his father, trapped in the fields of brick for 30 years.
“I will have to borrow money to get married,” he said. “But I am afraid if I borrow money from the kiln owner, then I will have to work here forever.”
Khalid Alokozay and Sharifullah Sahak contributed reporting.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Tehran is one of the most polluted cities of the world –– with higher levels of sulfur dioxide than India and Bangladesh. Air pollution in the Iranian city of Tehran is not new. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, along with a rapid population growth of Tehran, automobile ownership raised dramatically. Establishment of Iranian car production factories like Iran Khodro and Pars Khodro, and also foreign car import caused massive inflow of cars into the streets of Tehran.
On the other hand, many industrial factories were established in the same period of time around Tehran, especially in south, south west, and west of the city. Cars and factories have a major role in the dangerous pollution in Tehran. However, some other factors like land-use planning, urban form and weak public transit encourage residents to use personal automobiles.In addition to the mentioned factors, the geographical characteristics of the location of Tehran make the air pollution problem of the city harder to solve.
During the recent years academic researchers have stressed the geographical impacts on Tehran’s pollution. Both studies were published in Geographical Research journal in Iran. The first one was authored by Dr. Pour Ahmad from the University of Tehran in 1998, and the second one was conducted by Dr. Safavi from Imam Hossein University and Dr. Alijani from Tarbiat Moallem University in Tehran in 2006.
The studies show how geographical specifications of Tehran like direction of wind, rainfall, inversion, topography, and so on, affect the quality of air. Among these factors, it seems that the wind direction and topography, which work together, have the most influential role in the in the air pollution of Tehran. A BBC report (in Persian) says that 27 people a day die in Tehran from air pollution-related diseases. The north of the city is blocked by Alborz Mountain and the eastern and south eastern parts of the city are captured by some shorter heights like Bibi Shahrbanoo Mount in the south-east.
The dominant wind of Tehran blows from west to east. And most of the industries of Tehran are placed in west and south west. So the wind brings the pollutants to the city and there is no escape way through the eastern heights. In the meantime, if there were a way out in the eastern mounts, the western winds could clean a part of the emissions of the automobiles.
Shortage of rainfall of Tehran is another factor that could have reduced the pollution. In Tehran, in every 3 days of fall and winter, there is a probability of a rainfall greater than 5 mm. It is believed that rainfall of more than 5mm is effective in washing the air. The rain is less important in cleaning the air in comparison with wind, because the rain washes the air pollutions to the soil. But the wind directs the pollutant to the outer limits of the city.
The number of inversion (read more here on inversions) and smog days of Tehran seems to increase every year and this is an alarming sign for the city and governmental authorities. Some strategies have been implemented but the number of dangerous or polluted days have not dropped during the recent years.
Tips to improve air quality in Iran? Fewer cars, and newer ones that meet today’s emissions standards, and better urban planning.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on March 6th, 2011)
The Guardian, March 12th, 2011
A global industry: the big picture.
Science Daily, March 10th, 2011
Aerosol Plumes Downwind of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Insights from Air Pollution Study Have Applications Beyond Gulf.
NY Times, March 10th, 2011
House Panel Votes to Strip E.P.A. of Power to Regulate Greenhouse Gases.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 10th, 2011
New study calls region's air quality 'unacceptably poor'.
Mongolia Corporate Services, March 10th, 2011
National Committee set up to oversee air pollution reduction programs.
Greater Greater Washington, March 9th, 2011
Can the US make BRT work as well as in Latin America?
Scientific American, March 9th, 2011
Can the U.S. build a clean, green economic machine?
Phil Star, March 9th, 2011
To be or LPG? That is the jeepney question.
Science Daily, March 9th, 2011
Pinpointing Air Pollution's Effects on the Heart.
Science Daily, March 9th, 2011
It's All in a Name: 'Global Warming' Vs. 'Climate Change'.
The Daily Star, March 8th, 2011
Brick kiln fined for air pollution.
Science News, March 8th, 2011
Soot hastens snow melt on Tibetan Plateau.
Environmental Leader, March 8th, 2011
China Accelerates Energy Efficiency Goal.
The Guardian, March 8th, 2011
China's coal reserves 'will make it new Middle East'.
The East African, March 7th, 2011
East Africa losing billions of shillings through use of high-sulphur diesel.
New Scientist, March 7th, 2011
Green Machine: Clean fuels wasted on Delhi's rickshaws.
Press Information Bureau of India, March 7th, 2011
Urban Transport Sector.
Mother Nature Network, March 7th, 2011
Coal-fired power plants: A thing of the past?
Financial Express, March 6th, 2011
Making the Metropolitan City of Dhaka Liveable.
New York Times, March 4th, 2011
On Climate, Who Needs the Facts?
CNN, February 21st, 2011
Philippine volcano erupts twice in 24 hours.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Scientists are untangling how the tiniest pollution particles -- which we take in with every breath we breathe -- affect our health, making people more vulnerable to cardiovascular and respiratory problems. While scientists know that air pollution can aggravate heart problems, showing exactly how it does so has been challenging.
In a study published recently in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, scientists showed that in people with diabetes, breathing ultrafine particles can activate platelets, cells in the blood that normally reduce bleeding from a wound, but can contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The investigators from the University of Rochester Medical Center studied people with Type 2 diabetes so they could track changes in the blood in response to breathing ultrafine particles, specifically in a group of people who are prone to heart disease. Just last week, other scientists announced in the New England Journal of Medicine that diabetes doubles the risk that a person will die of cardiovascular disease. For the Rochester study, for safety reasons, participants in the study had no clinical evidence of heart or vascular disease.
"What's interesting about our new results is not so much what it shows about people with diabetes," said first author Judith Stewart, M.A. "Rather, it gives us details more generally about how the body's vascular system responds to exposure to ultrafine particles. It's such a complex process to understand -- it's as if someone gave you a haystack and told you to look for something tiny, but you had no idea what you were actually looking for."
In the study, Stewart and corresponding author Mark Frampton, M.D., tried to tease out some of the details about how air pollution makes bad things happen in the body. It's an area that Frampton, a pulmonary specialist who does research and who treats patients with lung disease, has studied for more than 25 years.
The team looked at ultrafine particles, which are almost unimaginably small. If a human hair were the width of a football field, the largest ultrafine particles would be about the size of a baseball. While cars and trucks are the most common source, they also come from cooking on a stove or running household devices like vacuum cleaners. Coal-burning power plants are another common source, releasing chemicals into the air that can lead to particle formation.
The team studied 19 people with diabetes, measuring how their bodies adjusted to breathing in either highly purified air or air that included ultrafine particles.
Scientists found that after exposure to the particles, participants had higher levels of two well known markers of cardiovascular risk, activated platelets and von Willebrand factor. Both play a major role in the series of events that lead to heart attacks. Platelets, for instance, can stick to fatty buildups or plaques within the blood vessels and cause a clot, blocking blood flow to heart muscle.
"Platelets are the critical actor at the actual moment of a heart attack," said Frampton. "When a plaque ruptures, platelets glom onto it, forming a large clot. Normally, of course, platelets do not block blood flow and aren't a problem. Our findings indicate that when someone is exposed to air pollution, the platelets become activated, which would make them more likely to trigger a heart attack."
The particles used in the study were relatively "clean" ultrafine particles, made of pure carbon. Scientists have done other studies looking at the effects of ultrafine particles in people, but those studies usually have included other materials, such as gases and other particles, and have often been done with higher concentrations. Frampton and Stewart studied a concentration of particles that was 50 micrograms per cubic meter, which is lower than most studies though still higher than what most people are normally exposed to while breathing everyday air.
"More than anything else, our study offers some direction about where to look for the molecular mechanism or link between air pollution and cardiovascular problems," said Frampton, who is professor in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Division of the Department of Medicine and a professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine.
"The risk of these particles to healthy individuals is really not much," he added. "Most people wouldn't be affected at all. But people with diabetes or other chronic conditions like asthma should heed the advice to stay inside when air quality is poor. These patients really need to control many factors, and one of them is their exposure to pollution."
In addition to Frampton and Stewart, other authors from the University include David Chalupa, Lauren Frasier, Li-Shan Huang, Erika Little, Steven Lee, Richard Phipps, Anthony Pietrapaoli, Mark Taubman, and Mark Utell. Robert Devlin of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also contributed. The work was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Friday, March 11, 2011
From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala
An ambitious pro-poor cleaner energy plan is under way in India.
The Energy chapter of the most recent Economic Survey describes (in the excerpt below) a vision of extending new LPG service to 55 million customers by 2015, to reach in total 75% of the population. (That suggests current household coverage of 50%, a bit surprising. Anyway, some 50 million households will still need kerosene and perhaps even improved woodstoves if available then.)
The avoided GHG emissions are staggering - additional 500 million tons CO2-e per year roughly in gross terms including all GHGs and black carbon, using 20-year GWPs, and ignoring the 'renewable biomass' theology). Benefits in terms of avoided disease and death - and improvements in the quality of life gained - incalculable.
And there is a particular capital subsidy program under consideration for Below Poverty Line households - some 20 million at around $30 each or $600 m total, HALF of which from the mandated CSR activities on the Indian oil companies.
For about the same sum - $600 m - financed in roughly the same manner - a half from the oil companies, the remainder from the budget (or other grant sources) - and the same period (if not less), about the same number (20 million) of BPL users of kerosene lighting (off-grid or victims of unreliable grid) can be given capital subsidies for changing to solar lanterns. (Say ~$20 each to BPL families on the grid to ~$40 each to BPL families off-grid).
And unlike the LPG program - which has a running budget of some $3.5 billion a year of price subsidy - there will be no operating subsidies. (Total kerosene and LPG "under-recoveries" will hit almost $10 b this year.
Rs 3 billion (~$600 m) price tag might also appeal the Finance Minister. (Because Pranab Mukherjee says 3 is his favorite number.)
Another measure of my ignorance and silliness. (Worrying about cleaner energy for the poor or saving the climate; what else do YOU worry about when vacationing like I am? :-)).
Note for non-Indians: Lakh = 100k; Crore = 100 lakhs = 10 m. ~ 45 Rs/US$
Rajiv Gandhi Gramin LPG Vitaran Yojana (RGGLVY)
11.48 The 'Vision-2015' adopted for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sector, inter-alia, focuses on raising the population coverage of LPG in rural areas and areas where coverage is low. The RGGLVY for small-size LPG distribution agencies was launched on 16 October 2009. This scheme targets coverage of 75 per cent of the population by 2015 by release of 5.5 crore new LPG connections. Oil marketing companies (OMCs) have issued advertisements to set up 2329 LPG distributors in 22 States, namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Pondicherry. Out of this, 75 LPG distributors have already been commissioned. Selection for the rest of the locations is in progress as per policy. The price of administered pricing mechanism (APM) gas produced by ONGC and OIL has been increased from June 2010 to the level of US$ 4.2/mmbtu, less royalty, which is equal to the price of gas produced by NELP operators.
Free LPG Connections to BPL Rural Households
11.49 A proposal for providing one-time financial assistance to BPL households for acquiring new LPG connections is under consideration of the Government. Under the proposed scheme, the Government and Oil Marketing Companies would provide one-time assistance of Rs. 1400 for acquiring a new LPG connection to a BPL family. The scheme would cover all eligible households in the BPL list of the State Government/Union Territory. About 32-40 lakh new LPG connections are to be released annually under this scheme.
11.50 The annual financial implication of the scheme is estimated to be Rs. 490 crore. The proposed budgetary support has been restricted to the extent of 50 per cent of the total funds required. The remaining 50 per cent would be partly drawn from the Corporate Social Responsibility Funds (CSRFs) of the six major oil companies, namely ONGC, IOCL, BPCL, HPCL, OIL, and GAIL and partly borne by the three oil marketing companies (OMCs) namely IOCL, HPCL, and BPCL in the ratio of LPG connections released to BPL households by each company. It is expected that the OMCs will incur Rs. 6.00 crore during the current financial year.
From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala
Looks like Panasonic introduced a new air-conditioner in the Indian market. It's supposed to be more efficient and I suspect the 'inverter' means it probably has a battery in there to cope with short outages. Since many Indian rich also have their generators - because of outages - distributed generation is already a fact of life. And given the inefficiencies in the Indian power network, and the availability of pilfered kerosene at low prices, running high-efficiency air-conditioners on own generators looks like a winner.
And a perfect solution for rural electrification (farmhouses of the rich). Even solar PV.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Follow the discussion @ Greater Greater Washington. Some notes from the post is posted below
Democrat Martin O'Malley and local environmentalists lobbied for light rail on the Purple Line, for example, while Republican Bob Ehrlich's push for BRT was largely seen as an effort to "obfuscate, alter, study and delay" progress.
But that's selling BRT short, according to a panel of experts at Brookings yesterday. For inspiration, they looked to Latin America, the motherland of bus rapid transit, housing 26 percent of the world's BRT systems, according to Dario Hidalgo of EMBARQ, the sustainable-transport arm of the World Resources Institute.
It all started with Curitiba, Brazil, which pioneered BRT in 1972, reducing congestion, improving air quality, and shortening travel times. The Curitiba system has been a model for others, including powerhouse systems like TransMilenio in Bogotá, which carries 44,000 passengers per hour per direction during the peak period. Car use has gone down, and traffic fatalities have declined by 56 percent.
"What's important isn't if the tire is a steel tire or a rubber tire," said Hidalgo. "What's important is the service that's provided to the people."
Logic like this flies in the face of entrenched biases in favor of one mode or another. Rail, especially, has its adherents among those who think buses are a lower-class form of transportation, ridden only by those with no other option. But more than 20 percent of TransMilenio riders own cars. "We can't be religious about modes," said Robert Puentes of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program.
BRT is characterized by three principal traits, as articulated by ITDP Director Walter Hook in a Streetfilm about BRT released today.
- BRT runs on exclusive lanes, so it's not slowed down by traffic jams. (That allows the TransMilenio to average 20 miles per hour while New York City buses crawl along at under eight mph.)
- The station is on a platform at the same level as the floor of the bus. Usually, those stations are designed by architects and aren't substantively different from the experience of being in a rail station. Passengers pay upon entering the station, not the bus, speeding up the boarding process. Another time-saver is that all the doors open at once and passengers can board quickly en masse, like they do on a subway.
- BRT is that the buses have priority at intersections, often through some kind of priority signaling.
Hidalgo and other experts noted that one of BRT's best features is also one of its weaknesses: its fast implementation time. It can take decades to acquire rights-of-way and lay the track for a new rail system, but a city already owns its medians and can launch a BRT system relatively fast. In Latin America, Hidalgo says, it's often rushed to correspond to the election cycle, as politicians hurry to get it up and running in time to get re-elected. And rushing a complex transportation system won't usually yield the most ideal, carefully-planned system a city could hope for.
It's not surprising that the developing world has been the pioneer of BRT, since it is a far less costly system to build than rail. Operating costs of rail can be lower, since it requires fewer drivers for more cars. (Rapid transit buses can be articulated, but even the longest bus won't compete with trains.)
Follow the full discussion and reader comments @ Greater Greater Washington.
From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala
A news item (below) from Ulaan Bataar alleging "a spike in birth defects and unhealthy newborns" due to exposures to coal smoke.
Donor agencies have been working at this for more than ten years, but “Everyone involved seems to be competing, not contributing,” and "Residents are confused whether to invest in better stoves or better fuel, and usually end up unable to afford either, "
Dr. Kirk Smith said in 1999, in the Indian context,
In practice, improvements in efficiency alone are not enough to meet long-term goals for indoor air quality. To bring down indoor levels significantly, stoves must be vented to the outside. Unfortunately, many designs for simple stoves with chimneys have led to increased fuel use because of excessive natural draft. Furthermore, vented emissions do not just disappear. In urban areas or densely inhabited villages, they can create high neighborhood pollution that can maintain unacceptable exposures even when all houses have switched to vented stoves. The only truly sustainable control measure, therefore, is probably improved fuels.
Someone working on stoves in UB commented a few days ago, "the heating stoves we developed here in Mongolia clean the air: the air intake to the stove is dirtier in terms of PM that the exhaust."
Who'd have thunk there was fuel in the air? :-)
"A new pilot initiative seeks to give 6,000 households a 50 percent nighttime rebate on electricity in order to encourage the use of electric heaters. The initiative has generated excitement, but an official ..says that $200 million is needed just to improve the distribution network. The money, he feels, would be better spent on producing and distributing low-emission fuels such as higher-grade coal and sawdust briquettes."
Crimes of the expert class (yours truly included) are limitless.
Read more "air pollution in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia"
Link to the full article in Eurasia on February 28th, 2011
Mongolia: Ulaanbaatar Air Pollution Linked to Public Health Crisis
Inside a pulmonary ward for newborns in Ulaanbaatar’s bustling Maternity Hospital No. 3, Dr. Tungalag Lodon tends to a day-old infant just taken off his oxygen tubes. With relief, she notes progress in the little boy’s heartbeat. The prognosis for other patients with hypoxia -- a shortage of oxygen reaching the tissues -- is often grim.
Maternity hospitals across Mongolia’s smoggy capital have experienced a spike in birth defects and unhealthy newborns in recent years. “I suspect air pollution plays a major role,” said Lodon, who has seen a sharp increase in cleft palates, weak bones and underdeveloped vital organs in her 10 years at the hospital. One researcher estimated that congenital birth defects have increased up to 30 percent in the last decade due to Ulaanbaatar’s dirty air. Of children born with heart defects, a government study found 56 percent died within their first year.
According to the World Bank, Ulaanbaatar, a city of 1 million, has some of the worst urban pollution levels in the world, caused mainly by residents burning coal at home to stay warm during the long winter.
“There has been a surge in birth defects and while a single risk factor cannot be isolated, maternal exposure to air pollution is suspected to play a major role,” says Dambadarjaa Davaalkham, head of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department at the Health Science University of Mongolia. A study conducted by the government’s Public Health Institute, containing data covering 1998-2008, shows a strong correlation between the increase in heart defects among infants and higher concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, gasses released by burning coal, in the city.
Among adults nationwide, respiratory disease is among the leading five causes of death, according to the Public Health Institute. The government agency has recorded a 45 percent uptick in the rate of respiratory diseases over the past five years.
Many hospitals are overburdened during the winter, when pollution levels are at their highest, says Dr. Naidansuren Tsendeekhuu, who works at the Pulmonary Disease Unit at a hospital in the Bayangol District. This winter, her 35-bed unit had to squeeze in 41 patients; the number of outpatients almost doubled between summer and winter. Bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and interstitial pneumonia were the most common ailments.
In January, President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj called the pollution’s destructive impact on public health a “disaster” and appealed for increased cooperation among government agencies to clean up the air.
Though donors such as the World Bank have spent tens of millions of dollars on projects to design cleaner stoves, produce alternative low-emission fuels and improve heat insulation, health experts feel a lack of coordination is hampering progress. “Everyone involved seems to be competing, not contributing,” says Dr. Bolormaa Purevdorj, executive director of the Mongolian Public Health Professionals Association. Residents are confused whether to invest in better stoves or better fuel, and usually end up unable to afford either, adds her colleague, environmental health researcher Enkhjargal Altangerel.
The lack of clear solutions, they say, has also left authorities confused.
A new pilot initiative seeks to give 6,000 households a 50 percent nighttime rebate on electricity in order to encourage the use of electric heaters. The initiative has generated excitement, but an official at the Energy Authority Implementing Agency says that $200 million is needed just to improve the distribution network. The money, he feels, would be better spent on producing and distributing low-emission fuels such as higher-grade coal and sawdust briquettes.
In addition, a “Law on Air Pollution Reduction in the Capital City,” passed in December 2010, establishes fines for people who don’t conform to new rules, while offering tax rebates to individuals and businesses who reduce pollution. Though implementation is a huge challenge, given the broad need and limited state resources, observers hope the law can serve as a critical to-do checklist that will finally help harmonize efforts to clean up Ulaanbaatar’s air. “Now that we have some sort of a policy in place, I hope things happen before we all get sick,” says Altangerel, the environmental health researcher.
From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala
Disturbance of the Indian monsoon and river flows is a far more ominous prospect.
"Convenient Action" is a good answer to "Inconvenient Truth".
".. no climate simulator can yet account well for all pollutants simultaneously especially soot, dust and the potentially insulating role of rocky debris that has been found blanketing and perhaps reducing melting in large sections of Himalayan ice fields.."
Study suggests black carbon pollution has greater effect than carbon dioxide on region’s ice
Link to the full article on Science News on March 8th, 2011
In high-elevation snowy regions, the warming effects of greenhouse gases pale in comparison to those triggered by soot, new computer calculations show. The finding could help explain the accelerating pace of melting on the Tibetan Plateau, which holds the world’s largest reservoir of ice outside of the polar regions.
Located north of the Himalayan range, the plateau’s spring meltwater feeds rivers that ultimately slake much of Asia’s thirst. In recent years, spring melting has been starting earlier, triggering downstream floods and shortening the time that irrigation water is available to farmers.
Until now, most researchers attributed the earlier runoff to global warming induced by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, says Yun Qian of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. But Qian’s team wasn’t satisfied that carbon dioxide increases were large enough to account for the pace of the spring snowmelt’s advance.
So the researchers used a computer program to investigate the melting of snow covered in tiny particles of black carbon — the soot emitted by everything from cookstoves and diesel engines to coal-fired electric power plants. Like a black tarp, these dark particles absorb solar energy and warm the snow beneath. The new simulations indicate that the estimated amounts of black carbon on the Plateau can reduce snow’s reflectivity in spring by 4 to 6 percent. That’s enough to warm the average surface air temperature across the Tibetan Plateau by around 1 degree Celsius, the scientists report online March 2 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.
Warming from soot is comparable to the regional warming attributable to the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide that’s occurred since the 1700s, the researchers note. But soot’s snow melting potency is substantially higher than that of carbon dioxide — some two to five times higher, depending on the elevation and month of the year, the new study finds.
Unlike the global spread of long-lived carbon dioxide, ground-level soot’s climate impacts tend to be fairly localized — affecting snow but not soil, rock or water. The new simulations show that this effect exaggerates the impact of Asia’s monsoons, “because monsoons are driven by the temperature difference between the land and ocean,” Qian explains.
Qian cautions that the team’s newfound association between soot and melting would be limited only to snow-covered areas, and the computer program does not yet have fine enough resolution to quantify the extent of that area precisely.
Dust poses another wild card, Qian says. Satellite and other monitoring sources don’t quantify the generation and fallout of dust very well. Dust can also significantly darken snow, contributing to earlier snowmelts.
Despite such limitations, computer simulations are essential to understanding impacts of soot and other climate factors on the Tibetan Plateau, says Kenneth Hewitt of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. He has conducted field monitoring of climate impacts on ice and snow in this part of the world. “And work on the ground — especially in high Asia — is so difficult that you can’t do much of it,” he says.
Computer simulations can take soot measurements collected carefully from a small area, he says, “and extend them to a larger space, like the whole Tibetan Plateau.”
Climate scientist Teppei Yasunari at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., agrees — but cautions that such computer modeling efforts are still very much a work in progress. For instance, he notes, no climate simulator can yet account well for all pollutants simultaneously — especially soot, dust and the potentially insulating role of rocky debris that has been found blanketing and perhaps reducing melting in large sections of Himalayan ice fields.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
News & Information; Every Sunday
(Last on February 27th, 2011)
The Wall Street Journal, March 5th, 2011
Underground coal gasification produces cheap diesel.
New York Times, March 5th, 2011
Energy Geeks Converge on M.I.T..
Science Daily, March 5th, 2011
Clean Fuel Worsens Climate Impacts for Some Vehicle Engines in Delhi.
The City Fix, March 4th, 2011
The Transport Network? Facebook Ponders Urban Design.
Pakistan Today, March 4th, 2011
Master of none - A critic on Lahore urban development plan.
Peoples Daily China, March 3rd, 2011
East China city to spend 4.5 bln yuan tackling lake pollution.
Forbes, March 3rd, 2011
Climate Challenge Hinges On Fueling China With Clean, Cheap Energy.
Science Daily, March 3rd, 2011
Soot Packs a Punch on Tibetan Plateau's Climate.
Science Daily, March 3rd, 2011
Mapping Human Vulnerability to Climate Change.
The City Fix, March 2nd, 2011
Pune’s Metro Rail Moves Forward, Faces Roadblocks Ahead.
The Guardian, March 2nd, 2011
Can ICT deliver China's carbon mitigation goals?
Canadian Manufacturing, March 2nd, 2011
UBC study could impact the heaviest global polluters.
The Guardian, March 1st, 2011
EU pledges €90m in climate funds for Pacific island states.
The News Today, March 1st, 2011
Curbing air pollution in Dhaka.
Press Information Bureau of India, March 1st, 2011
Pollution by LPG Vehicles in India.
UPI News, March 1st, 2011
Canadian Study says 'Clean fuel' not always successful in India.
New York Times, February 28th, 2011
City’s Lengthy Push for Hybrid-Engine Taxicabs Hits a Legal Dead End.
New York Times, February 28th, 2011
China Issues Warning on Climate and Growth.
Americans for Energy Leadership, February 28th, 2011
Solving the Energy Poverty Problem.
China Daily, February 28th, 2011
Clearing the way for the sessions.
Hindustan Times, February 28th, 2011
Finance Minister of India attempts a green budget, yet experts say not enough.
Xinhua Net, February 28th, 2011
Report warns of high energy consumption in China.
Xinhua Net, February 28th, 2011
Pollution shrouds Beijing sky for one-third of February.
Scientific American, February 28th, 2011
Can we get off oil now?
China Dialogue, February 28th, 2011
Beijing’s blue-sky diary.
Revolt, February 28th, 2011
Beyond the Numbers: A Closer Look at China’s Wind Power Success.
Central Chronicle, February 27th, 2011
Online monitoring of critically polluted areas of industries.
China Daily, February 26th, 2011
Construction and transportation pile pressure on 2015 energy goal.
The Standard, February 26th, 2011
Smoking ruins the environment in Zimbabwe.
Hindustan Times, February 24th, 2011
Carbon emissions highest in Mumbai, followed by Thane.
Xinhua Net, February 23rd, 2011
Hong Kong to raise 1st registration tax for private cars by 15%.
Peoples Daily Online, February 23rd, 2011
New energy efficiency standard to promote in Beijing.
Hundreds of people are working at these brick kilns. Most of them don’t use safety clothing. They even don’t use masks. “I don’t know how toxic the smoke is from brick kilns but if we don’t work here we will not have enough rice to eat,” said a worker named Nguyen Van Xuan, 20. A woman named Tinh said she has worked for brick kilns for several years. She can earn nearly 100,000 dong ($5) a day. “This job is hard but I have money. I can’t afford my children’s studies if we only plant rice,” Tinh said.
Many workers said the previously worked for the Nam Son rubbish dump, Hanoi’s largest waste dump. Nguyen Van Hien, who runs a brick kiln, said: “Our people are very poor. Their monthly income averages only 200,000 dong ($10). Frankly, they can’t live without brick kilns and the Nam Son garbage dump”. Lai Son village chief Dang Quoc Hung said there are around 200 private brick kilns in the village. Kilns are located around one kilometer from the residential area. During days with strong wind, smoke and dust from the kilns flew to the village. Before the recent incident in which three people died because of smoke from a brick kiln, many cattle and poultries died suddenly, Hung said. A local official said many brick kilns were fined for causing pollution. Local authorities asked kiln owners to stop using old kilns that use coal to use modern kilns but most of them didn’t obey.
Link to the article - November 20th, 2010
Link to "Air Quality Management Plan for Hanoi, Vietnam"
Brick kilns in Lai Son:
Thursday, March 03, 2011
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, March 1 (UPI) -- Canadian researchers say a program by one of the world's largest cities to switch its vehicles to clean fuel has not significantly improved emission levels.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia say their study of the impact New Delhi's 2003 conversion of 90,000 buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws to the "clean fuel" of compressed natural gas has had can provide guidance for other cities considering such projects, a university release said Tuesday.
Crucially, in New Delhi's 5,000 auto-rickshaws with two-stroke engines -- a widely used form of transportation in both Asia and Africa -- the conversion to natural gas produced only minor reductions in emissions that cause air pollution. The switch actually resulted in an increase in other emissions that negatively impact climate change.
The New Delhi program could have achieved greater emission reductions at a cheaper price by simply upgrading two-stroke models to cleaner, more fuel-efficient, four-stroke engines, the researchers said.
"Our study demonstrates the importance of engine type when adopting clean fuels," lead author and UBC post-doctoral fellow Conor Reynolds said. "Despite switching to CNG, two-stroke engine auto-rickshaws in Delhi still produce similar levels of particulate matter per kilogram of fuel to a diesel bus -- and their climate impacts are worse than before."
As much as one-third of natural gas is not properly burned in two-stroke engines, producing high emissions of methane, a major greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, the study said.
Several Asian cities have even more two-stroke auto-rickshaws than New Delhi, researchers said, including rapidly industrializing cities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Also see, in this blog, "Passenger Travel and Emissions Analysis for Indian Cities"
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Link to the article (on March 1st, 2011)
The Central Government has undertaken a study, i.e., ‘Air Quality Monitoring, Emission Inventory and Source Apportionment Study for (six) Indian Cities’, namely, Delhi, Kanpur, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru with the help of premier institutions like, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Madras, NEERI-Nagpur, TERI-New Delhi and ARAI-Pune for identifying the various mobile and stationary sources of dust and the extent of their contribution to ambient air pollution. The study was coordinated by the Central Pollution Control Board. The main focus of study was on PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micron) in ambient air. International peer review has been done for this study.
Vehicular emission is one of the identified sources of dust. Based on the study conducted, the approximate contribution of transport sector to dust in residential areas varies between 9.8 to 48.3 percent in the cities. Re-suspension of road dust due to movement of vehicles is also a prominent source. Based on limited measurements, contribution to PM2.5 (fine dust particles having size less than 2.5 micron) in ambient air was about 40 to 60 percent from LPG combustion and 6 to 22 percent from vehicles, including diesel vehicles in Delhi. The report does not mention that diesel vehicles and LPG vehicles cause seven percent and 51 percent pollution, respectively in Delhi.
The various actions being taken to check pollution include, notification of environmental standards for various categories of industry/process, introduction of cleaner fuel as per Auto Fuel Policy for controlling vehicular pollution, enforcement of ‘Pollution Under Control (PUC)’ certificate system to check exhaust emission from in-use vehicles, implementation of stringent emission norms for generator sets, use of beneficiated / blended coal in coal based thermal power plants, metro network in cities, monitoring of air polluting industries for compliance of notified standards, etc.
This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh in a written reply to a question by Shri Upendra Kushwaha in Rajya Sabha today.
What does it mean, "report does not mention".. if the report does not mention, where is the press information bureau getting this information?
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala
I'd say it's possible to deliver a package of lighting devices - not just one lantern - for basic home use for Rs 2,500 (~60 USD).
First please see the video below
Then check out the following from Tallberg Foundation
Request for proposals
Green Social Impact
Note from 2010 CGI
Over the last year, two young Beijingers have roamed the streets and lanes of the city, taking a photo of the sky every day to form a “Beijing Blue-Sky Visual Diary”. Their photographic record shows that from May 31, 2009 to June 1, 2010, Beijing enjoyed 180 days of blue skies – 100 fewer than in figures published by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The people of Beijing are dubious about the veracity of the official figures, believing themselves to have “been blue-skied”.
In this blog - "New Delhi and Beijing Tied for Worse Air Pollution in the World"
The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau was quick to explain that their “blue-sky day” refers to one on which air quality reaches a certain standard. An air-pollution index is produced by monitoring of pollutants, including inhalable particles sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO2), and anything under 100 is classed as a “blue-sky day”. So come rain or snow, if the air quality is good enough, it’s a “blue-sky day”.
In this blog - "Traffic Woes in Beijing"
“We didn’t start out to disprove official figures,” said Lu Weiwei. “We just wanted more people to pay attention to Beijing’s blue skies and protect them.”
In this blog - "Urban Sprawl in China - in Picture"
How important are the figures for the people who live in the city? “Your mood when you get up in the morning doesn’t depend on whether or not the newspaper tells you the air quality is up to standard – it depends on whether or not you see a blue sky when you open the door. A picture of a blue sky is more convincing than any data.” She and photographer Fan Tao decided to take matters into their own hands and record the reality of Beijing’s skies.
In this blog - "Sustainable Transport in Guanzhou, China"
Every photo in “Beijing Blue-Sky Visual Diary” includes a Beijing road sign –large and small -- from Dongzhimen to Douban Hutong, from Beitucheng Xilu to Shuiduizi Zhongjie. If the sky was grey, they just snapped the road sign, but on a blue-sky day they would invite a passer-by to put on a pair of sunglasses and appear in the photo. They used a traditional 35mm camera that recorded timely data on each photograph, thereby demonstrating continuity.
The sunglasses indicated that the sky at the time was clear, Fan told chinadialogue. Their round frames have a strong oriental touch and the mirrored lenses reflect the bright blue skies.
Lu may seem a little unorthodox to some. Born in Beijing, she has lived in Europe and the United States and worked at the World Bank headquarters in Washington on development financing. She quit the bank and went to Italy to study design, before returning to Beijing in 2004. Fan, a Beijinger born-and-bred, is a freelancer specialising in architectural and structural photography. He and Lu are nostalgic for the days when they used to cycle to school. “The sky was really blue then, and the air clean,” he said.
“Some photos of the environment are too harsh and depressing; they create a sense of aversion,” according to Fan. “We hope by taking pictures of blue skies and white clouds to let everyone participate and pay attention to the skies. Just do something small – environmental protection doesn’t mean making a fuss or great sacrifices.” The duo think that for a lot of people environmental protection means getting many people involved, but they sought to do something very ordinary. Using an old camera was part of this: it’s recycling and environmentally friendly. Expensive equipment isn’t needed to photograph the environment.
In this blog - "Impact of Air Pollution Control during the 2008 Olympic Games"
For 365 days they visited different parts of Beijing and asked strangers to let themselves be photographed. Lu and Fan each had a camera and pair of sunglasses, and took it in turns to go out. They planned locations carefully, aiming to photograph as many different areas as possible. The photos also include many different types of people – old men and women, teenage girls, migrant workers, white-collar office staff. “Beijing’s a melting pot and we did our best to choose different people, to show the city’s diversity and international nature,” said Tao.
At first the two had to overcome their apprehensions about stopping strangers in the street and persuading them to be photographed. If things went well, it might take only 20 minutes to find someone and take the photo. At other times, they might stand in the blazing sun for an hour without any luck. Sometimes Lu would see people trendily dressed: “You’d think they’d be environmentally aware,” she said. “I’d do everything I could to explain and be sure they’d be supportive, but they’d just say they didn’t want to. I’d say it would only take two minutes, and they’d say they didn’t even have two minutes. They didn’t even have a reason. It’s really discouraging when you aren’t trusted.”
White-collar workers were rushed and wary, often declining without explanation. Fan described the China World Trade Centre junction, in Beijing’s central business district, as his nightmare. It was particularly difficult to get someone there to photograph. According to Lu, “That’s where the elite are gathered. A lot of environmental policy decisions are in their hands. Maybe they’re under a lot of pressure, but a lot of them just keep rushing about with their heads down – they won’t look at the sky!”
In News - "Air Pollution in Beijing, China"
Unexpectedly, Fan and Lu found through the year that the most positive, encouraging responses didn’t come from the trendy white-collar workers, but from old people and children. “The old folk are usually very enthusiastic,” said Lu. “They were happy to be photographed and often asked us about ourselves.” A young boy Lu photographed wished her good luck with the project, a moment that moved her. Fan once photographed an elderly retired engineer who told him: “As long as it’s environmental protection, I’m for it.”
Lu and Fan plan to publish all 365 photos in succession and would like to hold an exhibition so visitors can count the number of blue-sky days for themselves. “We counted 180,” Fan said. “Maybe some will find 185 or 200. People have different ideas about what a blue sky is, and I hope everyone will make their own judgement. It’s really interesting, and gets more people involved. Our intention was to share and, in sharing, guide people’s behaviour.”