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Friday, March 21, 2014

problem of smog in China ..... and a novel 'smog insurance'

Heard of ‘Smokin Joe’ ?

In the Tamil month of Margazhi [mid Dec to mid Jan] – it will be very cold and one can experience thick fog envelope ~ nothing for those who live in the North still…. … have heard that in some Gulf countries, they statutorily have to declare a holiday when temperature soars above 50oC ….

In Chennai, where we already started feeling the summer, have heard that at times [especially in January] flights get delayed due to early morning inclement weather… in recent times, there have been reports that smog on Bhogi day delays take off and landing of flights due to bonfires increasing the amount of particulate matter in air.  In some places, people in the unguided enthusiasm burn plastic, leather and even rubber along with paper, cloth, brooms and mats. This leads to thick smog marring visibility.   In Jan this year, two aircrafts were diverted to Bengaluru and Trichy from the city airport where arrivals and departures of about 15 flights were  delayed  with visibility levels totally hampered. It was stated that the visibility levels had dropped to 300 metres at the airport against the minimum visibility level of 550 metres ~ all due to ‘smog’ !!

Smog is a type of air pollutant. The word "smog" was made as a portmanteau of the words ‘smoke and fog’ to refer to smoky fog. About a century ago it was known as pea soup fog, a familiar and serious problem in London from the 19th century to the mid 20th century, caused by the burning of large amounts of coal within the city; this smog contains soot particulates from smoke, sulfur dioxide and other components. Modern smog is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes that react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog.

Smog is a serious problem in many cities and continues to harm human health. Ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide are especially harmful for people with heart and lung conditions.  It can inflame breathing passages, decrease the lungs' working capacity, cause shortness of breath, pain when inhaling deeply, wheezing, and coughing. It can cause eye and nose irritation and it dries out the protective membranes of the nose and throat and interferes with the body's ability to fight infection, increasing susceptibility to illness.  The ‘smoggy’ problem is much less than India, when you read what occurs globally.

Recently a newspaper report highlighted that air pollution in China, according to the U.S. embassy index, had hit a dangerous particulate concentration of 497. At 500 on the Beijing scale—which the U.S. embassy dryly dubbed “beyond index” because who would think air pollution could climb so high?.  Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said pollution is a major problem and the government will “‘declare war’’ on smog by removing high-emission cars from the road and closing coal-fired furnaces. Pollution is ‘‘nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development,’’ Li said today in his work report at the start of this year’s National People’s Congress in Beijing.  ~ there is Insurance opportunity arising out of smog [here is an article of Financial Times on Smog Insurance]

Travellers to China worried that their view of the Great Wall will be obscured by Beijing’s pollution can rest easy with a “smog insurance” product being introduced this week. “Smog insurance” is the latest response to choking air pollution in China and follows efforts that include closing industrial plants and do-it-yourself air filter specialists dispensing advice online. Panasonic, the Japanese electronics group, said last week it would offer a pollution bonus to expatriate employees working in China.

Li Keqiang, Chinese premier, declared a “war on pollution” in his annual speech to the legislature in March. Only three Chinese cities meet national air quality standards, two of which are on islands. CTrip, an online travel agent, and Ping An, the state-owned insurance company, have teamed up to offer “smog insurance” to travellers and residents in seven cities plagued by smog. The scheme pays out when the air quality index, or AQI, exceeds set levels for two days in a row. A week of the index being over 300, a level deemed hazardous at prolonged exposure, yields the policy holder a free lung check while those who need hospitalisation because of it would receive Rmb1,500 ($240). If pollution exceeds the charts, as happened this winter in the northern city of Shijiazhuang for several days, policy holders can compete for a free trip to the subtropical island of Hainan to “clear their lungs”. It is not unknown for cities in northern China to see pollution in hazardous levels for a week at a time, particularly in the winter. But Ping An is on safer ground in the springtime, when breezes and bright skies tend to keep the AQI within more comfortable limits.

Chengde is dominated by steel mills that, as well as jobs bring dust and smog.  Haikou, the capital of subtropical Hainan Island, Zhoushan, on an archipelago south of Shanghai that consists of 1,390 islands and 1.1m inhabitants, and Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, were the only three to meet national standards in a survey of 74 of the largest cities, the vice minister for the environment said this month. The air quality index assesses the level of air pollution with a grading system from 0 to 500. The higher the value, the more polluted the air and the greater the health concern: 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health and over 300 is well within the hazardous range. The air in Beijing on Thursday was rated “good” by the US embassy and “excellent” on the Chinese index.

Joseph William "Joe" Frazier – the professional boxer was known as ‘smokin joe’ – the nickname shared by Viv Richards who would smack bowlers at will………….

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

21st Mar 2o14.

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