Exporting Pollution

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America has been getting rid of its industrial base and as a result pollution will tend to decrease in America. Where does it all go? Other countries should know the bitter lessons of pollution should they not? Maybe yes and maybe no. Industry has gone to many other nations including China especially in the last decade. According to the People’s Republic of China’s own evaluation, two-thirds of the 338 cities for which air quality data are available are considered polluted. Respiratory, cancer and heart diseases related to air pollution are the leading cause of death in China. Meanwhile in Tehran, which is one of the most polluted cities of the world, there is a similar situation. Air pollution in the Iranian city of Tehran is not new. Ever since 1950 population and automobile ownership has risen dramatically.

Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley of the New York Times filed a report on August 26, 2007 about China’s pollution problem. Selected points from the report included:

1. 500 million people in China are without safe and clean drinking water.

2. Only 1% of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the standards of the European Union, because all the China’s major cities are constantly covered in a “toxic gray shroud”.

3. Lead poisoning or other types of local pollution continue to kill many Chinese children.

4. A large section of the ocean is without marine life because of massive algal boom caused by the high nutrients in the water.

5. The pollution has spread internationally: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides fall as acid rain on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo;

6. A 2007 World Bank report concluded “…outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths a year.

This is pollution from industrial sources as well as a growing population and its needs. China does not confide in the world much but it seems to be poor planning.

In Iran on the other hand, many industrial factories were established in the 1950’s and thereafter around Tehran, especially in the south, south west, and west of the city. Cars and factories have a major role in the dangerous levels of pollution in Tehran. Other factors like land use planning, urban form and weak public transit encourage residents to use personal automobiles. In addition to these factors, the geographical characteristics of the location of Tehran make the air pollution problem of the city harder to solve.

Studies have shown how geographical limits around Tehran like the direction of the wind, rainfall, inversion, topography, and so on, affect the quality of air. Among these factors, it seems that the wind direction and topography, have the major role in the in the air pollution of Tehran. The north of the city is blocked by the Alborz Mountain and the eastern and south eastern parts of the city are blocked by some shorter heights like Bibi Shahrbanoo Mount in the southeast.

The dominant wind of Tehran blows from the west. Most local industries of Tehran are placed in the west and southwest. So the wind brings the pollutants to the city and there is no escape way through the eastern heights. In the case of Tehran, poor industrial planning as well as increased automotive use has led to severe pollution.

In India, cities are polluted by both vehicles and industry emissions. In cities like Bangalore, it has been reported that around 50% of children suffer from asthma.

One of the biggest causes of air pollution in India is from the train and bus system. Hundreds of millions of older diesel engines use fuel with about 150 to 190 times the amount of sulfur allowed elsewhere in the world. Now India is trying to upgrade these engines but it will take time. Even electric rickshaws are being designed.

Another major cause of air pollution is due to public cremations in India. In India 78% of the population consign the dead bodies to fire for cremation as a ritual in open air.

So in India they are learning but they have their own unique sources such as body cremation.

When industry goes away, it does not mean pollution goes away especially when the new host country does not plan ahead for their own unique problems or use correct control technology. Yet industry is needed for all those goods people use and often need.

Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network

photo: duffman34

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