Pollution Monitoring & Control – Review of the Year 2007

2007 was a year of mixed fortunes when it came to pollution, with ever-tightening controls in the industrialised world overshadowed by an apparent lack of controls in developing countries - particularly those experiencing rapid economic growth.

China in particular found itself under the spotlight, as the steady stream of pollution incidents which are sadly becoming synonymous with the country received increasing attention in the face of the imminent Olympics.

In preparation for the sporting event city officials have tried to tackle poor air quality, employing a range of measures including taking vehicles off the streets.

Droughts in China were also blamed on pollution, which was reported to be impacting on rainfall.

Although Chinese regulators and politicians are making the right noises on pollution control, evidence of change is limited – but with the world’s eyes looking to Beijing in 2008, next year could be a year of change.

Pollution also continued to rise elsewhere in Asia, with India forced to cancel a major religious festival based around the Ganges as the river was found to be too contaminated to bathe in.

Indian vultures too were under threat, as veterinary medicines entering the food chain continued to decimate their populations.

In Tanzania, lesser flamingos went about their business blissfully unaware that plans to build a huge chemical plant on the banks of the lake where three quarters of the world’s population flock to breed were approved, then abandoned.

While no governments were forced out of office due to pollution scandals, as that of the Ivory Coast had been in 2006, Thailand did declare a state of emergency as smog grew too thick for people to go about their business.

Hong Kong too continued to take its share of column inches for the wrong reasons, with film makers forced to rethink a scene from the next Batman movie as health experts advised against allowing actors to swim in the polluted city harbour.

A study in Sydney showed that traffic fumes were killing more people than road accidents while a scientist working in the Chernobyl exclusion zone attracted attention by publishing a paper showing that poor air quality in city streets is worse for human health than the radiation from the ruined reactor.

November saw several ships, including an oil tanker, sunk or run aground as a freak storm cut across the Black and Azov seas.

In the USA 2007 was a year of ratcheting up fines on industrial polluters while drafting new regulations to tighten controls on vehicle emissions.

Closer to home, the EU finally unveiled its gargantuan chemical control regulations, REACH, billed as the most complicated piece of legislation ever to come out of Brussels.

The UK was among a number of European countries introducing a ban on smoking in public places, and London continued to keep the lead on initiatives to curb air pollution from traffic, following up its congestion charge with plans for a vast low emissions zone to limit pollution from heavy vehicles.

Sam Bond

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