Monday, May 10, 2010

UN praise for India’s pollution monitoring system for the Games

A pollution monitoring system developed by Indian scientists has come in for praise from the United Nations as an important step to ensure clean air during the Commonwealth Games.

According to a report published in the Economic Times dated 9 May 2010, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), a specialised agency of the UN, said the System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) will serve as an example within India, South Asia and globally.

Aimed at managing air quality, it has been developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.

‘The WMO recognises SAFAR as a very important activity in the region and will make all efforts to get international visibility for the project,’ L. Jalkanen, head of the WMO’s Atmospheric Environment Research Division, wrote in a letter to SAFAR project director Gurfan Beig in March.

Scientists at IITM are elated and confident that the system will help in ensuring clean air during the Games, dubbed as the first ever Green Games.

SAFAR will provide information on air quality on an hourly basis and forecast pollution levels 24 hours in advance through wireless colour digital display panels located at 11 key points in the city during the Games.

Only a few developed countries have the technical knowhow to use such a system. It was used during the Olympic Games in Beijing and also at the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

SAFAR’s inputs will greatly help in identifying the major sources of air pollutants and recommending measures to help improve the air quality.

Air pollution could hit performance of athletes in CWG: NGO

Pointing out an increase in vehicular traffic, an NGO has warned that air pollution in the national capital could affect the performance of athletes during the upcoming Commonwealth Games as the stadia are on the main road.

This assessment was made by Centre for Science and Environment and was presented before experts from various government agencies by US-based Health Environment Institute in the form of a study 'Clean air before the Games: Are we living up to it?'

"It (pollution) can affect athletes as our centres for Commonwealth Games -- Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and National Stadium -- are near to the major roads," said Sunita Godhra, a marathon champion who was part of a panel of experts on behalf of the government.

The assessment claimed that Particulate Matter (PM) level is increasing. "The PM10 levels will have to be reduced at least four times to be able to meet the standard."

The study said, "the number of days with ozone levels exceeding the standards is high. Ozone is particularly harmful for athletes and outdoor activities, with immediate health impact even for short duration exposure."

Daniel Greenbaum and Robert O'Keefe, experts from the US-based organisation who presented the study to the local panel of experts also suggested to increase the number of clean air days -- days on which air quality standards are met.

Till April this year, PM2.5 levels and NO2 levels have exceeded standards on 92 per cent of the days monitored. Ozone levels were also high in summer, the study said.

"With every breath, athletes typically take in 10 to 20 times as much air and thus pollutants," CSE air pollution programme head Anumita Roychowdhury said.

The panelists said, "Delhi needs a combination of long lasting reforms as well as a contingent plan to clean up its air before the 2010 Commonwealth games."

Pay to drive in congested areas of Delhi

Before the Commonwealth Games, the Delhi government is planning to begin levying a charge on motorists for driving in congested areas of the capital, officials said Monday.

"The Delhi Transport department is working out a plan to levy a fee on motorists driving in the congested areas of the capital before the Games. The step would help in controlling number of vehicles in busy areas during the sporting event," said Delhi Environment secretary Dharmendra.

Dharmendra was speaking at a discussion 'Clean air before the Commonwealth Games' organised by the Centre for Science and Environment.

"There has been a quantum jump in the number of vehicles plying on roads in the capital in the last few years and such steps can help in checking inflow of vehicles on Delhi roads," he said.

Managing traffic during the upcoming Games is a big challenge for the Delhi government this year. The Delhi Traffic police is also planning to have dedicated lanes during the Games for swift movement of athletes and delegates.

The Indian capital is among the most polluted cities in the world. Its major problem is an ever-growing number of cars, three- and two-wheelers, which occupy a staggering 75 percent of the road space, although only 20 percent of the commuting public use them.

Delhi has over five million vehicles and another four million come to the metropolis from towns in the national capital region in adjoining states.

Many European countries levy congestion charge on motorists. A fee is charged from motorists travelling within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ). The charge aims to reduce congestion and raise investment funds for the transport system.

Hong Kong firm landscaping, beautifying Delhi's newest airport terminal

If you drive to or from the soon-to-be-opened Terminal-3 (T-3) of the international airport here, you are bound to notice the sidewalks and causeways fast sprouting with exotic flowers, palms, manicured shrubs and lush lawns.

A Hong Kong landscaping architecture firm is beautifying the surroundings around Delhi's newest terminal at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, billed as one of the largest in the world, ahead of the October Commonwealth Games in October.

Exotic varieties of orchids from Thailand and Dioon Spinosa palms imported from Mexico will be among the key highlights of the landscaping initiative, according to officials at Delhi International Airport Ltd, which is carrying out the new development.

EDAW, the Hong Kong-based firm, is working with Beyond Built of Bangalore for delivering the project from concept to commissioning in the landscaping project, which is spread over 70 acres outside the terminal and 10,000 sq mt inside the building.

As many as 39 varieties of trees, 26 kinds of plants, 39 types of ground covers and six types of cacti and succulents will blend with 30,000 sq mt of lush green lawns along the terminal and its causeways.

"The idea is to create an environment that makes passengers feel good before or after a travel," a senior official of DIAL told IANS, speaking on the condition of anonymity as per his company rules.

"We have planned nearly one million trees for the project, both inside and outside the terminal building. We are using nearly 300 varieties of plants that grow fast and are easy to maintain," the official said but declined to share the financial details.

The T-3 landscaping initiative also includes new systems for irrigation, water-feature works, energy-saving lighting, planters and works for vertical green walls. The total area involved is 5.2 million sq ft.

Soft landscaping inside the terminal will feature 1,000 granite clad planters, 800 self-watering planters from Germany and 850 low-height modular fiberglass reinforced planters that will act like "green lungs" and give a tropical look and feel inside the terminal.

The terminal will cater to both domestic and international flights while providing the travellers and visitors the comforts that come with state-of-the-art technology, a wide spectrum of infrastructure for transforming the airport experience in India.

T-3, the first phase of which is slated for July, will have 90 automated walkways, 63 elevators, 31 escalators and 78 aerobridges. It will also feature multi-level car park for 4,300 vehicles and a high-speed dedicated Metro link to the city centre.

According to DIAL, a plant nursery spread over 6.75 acres has also been developed to maintain more than 10,000 plants. The nursery will have the facility of a cold house, a green shade house and an open ventilated shade house.

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