Friday, September 16, 2011

Every breath you take

In labs in many countries, scientists are beginning to find links between air pollution and critical illnesses ranging from cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes to debilitating eye disorders and hypertension. No doubt research has improved in India in the past three decades. Nearly 60 per cent of the studies on health impacts of air pollution are now on vehicular pollution. Unlike other countries, most studies here are by doctors who deal with new health risks from worsening air quality. But regulators are yet to act effectively.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My First Week in Hong Kong

By Anjila Manandhar**

When I first landed in Hong Kong the weather was cold and the air was clean. I silently said to my self “It’s been ages I haven’t breathe clean air, now I don’t have to inhale dust and smoke for at least 10 months.” I wish I could take clean air back home to my country. Hong Kong also has air pollution problem but the roads are not dusty like we have in Kathmandu. On my way to my new home the first thing I noticed are the very tall buildings, lots of greeneries, long underground tunnels, beautiful and colorful two storied buses, an electric train and ferries. Hong Kong has various modes of public transport system.

The second day to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, my office station, I was introduced to a group of research graduates. They took me to the laboratory where they are monitoring indoor and outdoor air quality. The lab was furnished with different types of monitoring equipments which are very new to me. I felt I joined the University again.

It is amazing to see people queuing in front of the bus stand that made me recall my memories during my school time. They lined up to get into the bus; to get into the elevator and even in the shopping centers to pay the bill. They are so well mannered and have respect for each other. All the time we could observe and learn lots of disciplinary lessons from the people here and definitely a success factor of the development.

People like to walk here and so do I. I walk to my office everyday, there are good pathways for the pedestrians, and on the way we pass by a beautiful garden which is like a botanical garden, we can see various species of plants and there are some benches for the people to rest. People use this space for doing exercise in the morning, cycling and playing for kids, jogging and some homeless spend the nights in the place though they are not allowed to lye down there.

Hong Kong is geographically compact and the port are being encroached to build the tall buildings which look good but it blocks the wind which means more pollution and heat is trapped inside. It seems that Hong Kong has one of the world's most efficient, safe, and frequent public transport systems. That may be one of the reasons why I have seen more people (more than 80 %) riding on public vehicles. It is interesting that people pay by using card for the transportation they use. It is Octopus Card an electronic value card which is very easy and convenient to use. It is accepted by almost all forms of public transport and at many fast food chains and stores, save time and eliminates the need for small change.

I had good experiences during my first week and hope to gain more knowledge and experience from here so that I can contribute something to my organization and to my country.

**Ms Anjila Manandhar worked as a Program Coordinator for Clean Energy Nepal. Currently she is posted at Polyuniversity Hongkong under the FK Exchange Program.

“Let’s Walk” for Clean Blue Sky in Kathmandu

By Charina Cabrido and Gopal Raj Joshi

In most developing world cities, a large number of citizens walk as part of their daily social, recreational, and livelihood activities. Every trip begins and ends with a walking trip. Nearly all trips made by people entail some walking, either directly to a destination or to another mode of transport.

In Kathmandu, large section of population prefers to walk. In fact, 18.1 percent of daily trips are made entirely on foot, and of the nearly 56.5 percent of the commuters who use different modes of public transport, a large percentage walk some or large part of their daily commute.

The extent to which pedestrian infrastructure allows people to walk with ease and safety determines quality of the pedestrian environment and the overall transportation network.

Inadequate planning for pedestrians has many negative consequences, the most notable being unnecessary fatalities and injuries. For example, according to study conducted by Kathmandu Valley Mapping Program (KVMP), pedestrians represent up to 40 percent of all fatalities in Kathmandu City in 2001.

Beyond death and injury, an unsafe and inconvenient pedestrian environment impedes social and economic mobility of people. Walking everyday in a chaotic road environment can be both unpleasant and unsafe. Moreover, it reduces the time and energy that people could otherwise devote to work, family, and other productive activities.

Further, lack of sufficient pedestrian infrastructure can be very costly in the long run. Beyond the unnecessary costs incurred from accidents and impeded economic mobility, there are also opportunity costs from lost tourism and investment opportunities -- pedestrian facilities play a significant role in the way outsiders perceive a city’s image.

When cities improve mobility for wealthier residents at the expense of poorer residents (by, for example, building new roads for automobile traffic without including sidewalks), they are cultivating, rather than reducing, social inequity.
Improving pedestrian facilities have high financial returns in terms of economic and environmental benefits due to reductions in emissions and accidents/ fatalities averted.

Walking is a Sustainable Mode of transport in the context of air quality, personal health and global warming. A study done by CAI Asia Center on 30 Indian Cities clearly indicated that nominal increase of 5% mode share in Pedestrians can contribute as much as 9.9% reduction in daily CO2 emissions in an average Indian city ( under prevailing trip/ traffic and control conditions). Walking can cut the use of fossil fuel in vehicles thus lowering emissions of air pollutants.

In 1994 the construction of pedestrian facilities in the Makati , Philippines CBD was initiated, the average walking distance of pedestrians was about 450 meters based on tracking surveys. In 2002 after several of pedestrian facility projects had been completed especially the elevated walkway system, average walking distance had increased to about 700 meters.

In many countries, methods of planning have been redesigned so that social, economic, and environmental objectives are an integral part of sustainable transportation planning. This changes both the process and the content of transportation planning and decision making. Priorities are shifting toward less environmentally damaging modes and improved vehicle technology; optimizing the use of existing capacity; and location and design decisions that support sustainability objectives.

As a first step towards encouraging and helping Kathmandu city to improve its pedestrian infrastructure, CANN, CEN and CAI Asia Center are developing a campaign “Let’s Walk”. Under this campaign, a study on measuring Walkability Index of Kathmandu City will be carried out, which would reveal not only where the city stands in terms of walking situation and which areas require significant improvements, but also identify specific actions city can take to improve their pedestrian infrastructure, as well as related policies and services. Following activities will be carried out in the days to come.
• Lobby with concerned officials in the city government for improved planning and investment in pedestrian infrastructure
• Plan and conduct awareness raising amongst general public using electronic and print media, networks with schools, etc.
• Encourage the walking habits among general people of Kathmandu City.
Let’s walk and Let us walk for clean blue sky in Kathmandu.