Ensuring clean air will no longer be the task of a single city - it will be the responsibility of a cluster of cities whose pollutants affect each other, according to a plan being finalized by the government.
The economic and industrial hubs - the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region - will be the pioneers executing the plan, Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian said while presenting a report on controlling air pollution to the top legislature yesterday.
In those cities with high air pollution levels and a combination of geography and weather that prevents pollutants from dispersing, ambient air pollution can pose a significant health risk to rich and poor alike. That risk is compounded in cities where air pollution regulations or enforcement is weak. Worldwide, an estimated 1.1 billion urban residents are exposed to particulate or sulfur dioxide levels in excess of the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Asia's cities have some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world. The poor air quality is not only causing health problems, it is also putting a strain on finances and clouding economic prospects. But, as Claudia Blume reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong, some governments in the region are trying to help their citizens breathe more easily.
Mexico City’s air has gone from among the world’s cleanest to among the dirtiest in the span of a generation. Novelist Carlos Fuentes first novel took place here in 1959 and was entitled "Where the air is clear" - a title he has said is ironic considering the city’s now soupy environment.
The average visibility of some 100 km in 1940s is down to about 1.5 km. Snow-capped volcanoes(Popocatepetl, Ixtacihuatl, and Paricutin) that were once parts of the landscape are now visible only rarely (fig.1.2). And levels of almost any pollutant like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) now regularly break international standards by two to three times. Levels of ozone (O3), a pollutant that protects us from solar radiation in the upper atmosphere but is dangerous to breathe, are twice as high here as the maximum allowed limit for one hour a year and this occurs several hours per day every day.
Health officials say air pollution in Benin’s economic capital, Cotonou, is an often-overlooked, undiagnosed killer that is as much of a health threat as the country’s leading cause of death, malaria.
“People banalise pollution because no one ever made the link…between pollution, illness and death,” said UN Development Programme coordinator Mathieu Houinato. “They think as long as they can put up with it, it is okay. People do not understand the deadly cumulative [long-term] impact it has on their health.”
Amid the serpentine creeks and rivers; in the ramshackle wooden huts perched on stilts above the oozing mud; among the muddy puddles where children gather to collect drinking water, there is little hint of the vast oil wealth on which the entire Niger Delta is sitting.
Nigeria might be the world's eighth-biggest oil exporter, but these villagers remain mired in poverty. Getting to the nearest clinic means a day navigating the waterways; in the absence of proper schools, children idle their days away among the swamps.
The people of the Delta do not get to see even the most meagre crumbs from a table that is ever more bountiful as oil prices reach record highs. What they get instead is the pollution.
A poor environment is directly responsible for around 25% of all preventable ill health in the world today, and two-thirds of those affected are children. They fall sick because of a lack of essential environmental resources – chief among them sufficient and clean water, food, shelter, fuel, and air. People also become ill through exposure to hazards in the environment. Many diseases are linked to environmental problems such as polluted drinking water, poor air, waste disposal and exposure to mosquitoes and other carriers of disease. But changes in the way people live and work can also cause a sudden increase in old diseases or the emergence of new ones. Overcrowding and industrialization affect the health of millions in the developing world.
Vehicles are one of the dominant sources of urban air pollution in South Asia. While this problem is common to growing metropolitan areas throughout the world, it is particularly severe in South Asia, where over half of all vehicles are two- and three-wheel vehicles operating on two-stroke engines.
This report analyzes different technical and policy options for reducing emissions from twostroke engines. As the study emphasizes, it is important to understand not only the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of enforcing different mitigation measures but also the socioeconomic implications of those measures.
Air pollution is expected to increase considerably in most countries of the Asia-Pacific region over the next three decades. In addition, acid deposition is becoming increasingly problematic. Under business-as-usual conditions, regional emissions of sulphur dioxide are expected to increase fourfold by 2030 over those of 1990; emission of nitrogen oxides are expected to increase threefold.
Alternative scenarios focus on clean technology, increasing energy efficiency and fuel switching. Fuel switching needs to be carefully adapted to the situation in each country. When combined with other options, fuel switching could reduce the 2030 emission of sulphur oxides to below the 1990 level, and limit the increase of nitrogen oxides to 40 per cent. The study shows that the technology to reduce environmental pressures in the region to sustainable levels is actually available; however, capital will be required to make the necessary changes politically and financially feasible.