Smog in the City

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By Rox Peña

E-ssue

Thursday, January 17, 2013


THESE past few days, Beijing in China has been blanketed by smog. News reports say that the level of pollutants has reached dangerous levels. Tiny particles called PM 2.5 are way above the limits set by the World Health Organization. These very fine dusts can go deeply into the respiratory tract and into the lungs.

China’s booming economy has resulted in more factories and more cars on the road. These are the major sources of air emissions which if left unchecked will affect air quality. The smog in China was said to be worsened by windless days and the cold weather.

--oo0oo--

With its 11.8 million population (Wikipedia) and close to two million motor vehicles, Metro Manila has the potential of having smog like Beijing. The metropolis has already some of the worst air pollution in the world (http://ww2.unhabitat.org/). If not for the typhoons that visit the Philippines yearly which blow away pollutants, Metro residents would choke with smog.

There’s good news however. Metro Manila’s air quality is improving, says DENR Secretary Ramon Paje. The Secretary reported that the average level of air pollution in the metropolis has declined by 21 percent overall in the first nine months of 2012.

He cited specific figures: total suspended particulates (TSP) and the level of particulate matter 10 microns in diameter or smaller (PM10) has decreased from 135ug/Ncm (micrograms per normal cubic meter) and 94µg/Ncm in the first quarter to 106ug/Ncm and 77µg/Ncm in the third quarter of last year, respectively.

But the environmental group Kalikasan PNE disagrees with the report. They claim that air pollutants are flushed out and normally decrease during the wet months of May to September. If this is true, then the worst smog would be in summer.

--oo0oo--

In Pampanga, the situation may not be as bad as Metro Manila. But as many areas in the province become urbanized, we may soon be choked with smog too. There’s a bit of good news though. A body that will regulate air quality in the region will soon be organized.

The DENR has recently announced the designation of the Bulacan-Pampanga-Bataan Airshed, pursuant to the requirements of the Philippine Clean Air Act. Airsheds are geographical areas with similar weather or meteorological conditions and sources of air pollution.

A governing board will be created to oversee compliance to air quality standards in the airshed. It shall be composed of the regional directors of the DOH, DOE, DOTC, DOST, DILG, DTI, DepEd and the DBM; local government officials of the provinces and municipalities; and representatives from the private business sectors, people’s organizations, and non-government organizations.

The governing board shall assist the DENR in taking measures to control air pollution and set up emission standards; to regulate the use of fuel additives and other related substances; and to formulate policies as well as set standards congruent with the existing national laws. The board shall also develop a comprehensive action plan based on the guidelines set by the DENR, and issue an Air Quality Status Report.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 18, 2013.

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