Monday, April 22, 2013

Singapore Air Quality..

Today Singapore has one of the best air quality in south-east Asia, comparable with Europe and United States. Considering the urbanization that Singapore has gone through over the years, it is admirable that Singapore enjoys one of the best air quality in the world. Singapore has high humidity, higher temperatures almost all year long, and monsoon weather. Haze is one of the dominant problems in Singapore; however vehicular emissions are not the reason behind haze, so we will keep haze out of discussion for this blog. Today we will mainly discuss vehicular air pollution in Singapore and control technologies implemented to deal with this problem.

 Singaporean leadership always aimed for urban development; however the environmental impacts of the urban developments were never neglected. This could be understood from the message that the first prime minister of Singapore gave after independence, and also the actions taken by Singapore government after that. The timeline of the actions taken by Singapore government targeting environment protection policies can be seen at the following link.
Regulation and Monitoring
Since 1971, a variety of laws have been passed regarding clean air, focusing on vehicular pollution and large-scale industrialization. In Singapore, air pollution control is regulated under the Environmental Pollution Control Act (EPCA) 1999 and its subsidiary regulations. The Environmental Pollution Control (Air Impurities) Regulations 2000 stipulate emission standards for air pollutants. Under vehicular emissions the pollutants under consideration are: Sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate matters. The pollutant limits that are followed by National Environmental Agency (NEA) are same as that of Europe and United States.
Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) in Singapore is monitored by 14 monitoring stations distributed all over the island. The measurements are taken three times a day and data is sent to a Centralized Control System. AAQ monitoring is conducted by NEA and this data is available on the NEA website. Recently they have developed apps so that people can get alerts about the air quality that they are breathing in. This is a fine concept as it makes Singaporeans citizens more aware and part of the entire process.  The concentration of air pollutants mentioned above were observed over a period of time (1994-2005). The graphs showing concentrations of pollutants (µg/m3) mentioned above are attached below. It can be seen that among these pollutants all of them were under the USEPA standard limits, except for PM10 which occasionally crossed the EPA standards. These contaminant levels were also compared with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Particulate matter has been considered as a matter of concern. However one of the major cause for PM is trans-boundary haze.

In our previous blog we discussed successful policies implemented by Singapore government (ERP and VQS and shocked you all by informing you about the car prices in Singapore!) to curb number of vehicles on the road. It is obvious that fewer vehicles on the road will lead in fewer emissions in the environment. As more and more green vehicles (hybrid, electric, LPG) are running on the road, this could also help in reducing the emissions in the atmosphere. LTA is promoting use of green vehicles on the road under the scheme Green Vehicle Rebate (GVR). Under GVR, green vehicles are given a rebate of 40% of its open market value which is offset against the vehicle's Additional Registration Fee (ARF). This year LTA has initiated Carbon Emission Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS). Under this scheme vehicles with excess carbon emissions are charged (surcharge) as opposed to the vehicles with lower emissions that get a reward (rebate) for lower emissions.  Depending on the vehicles this reward or penalty can vary between S$5000-S$20000. CEVS is valid until 2014 after which its impact and will be reviewed afterwards in terms of its impact on motorist's purchasing decisions, technological advances and its impact on climate change efforts.
Efficient public transportation is heart of Singapore’s successful transportation policies. LTA runs a huge fleet of trains, spread all over the Singapore which is run on electricity or compressed natural gas. As per LTA they are investing heavily in these trains to get more people off the road and in the trains. Today major source of electricity production in Singapore is natural gas, which is a relatively cleaner fuel than the oil. Use of natural gas has increased over the years from 19% in 1999 to almost 80% in 2007.  As mentioned earlier, particulate matter is a major concern from air quality point of view and use of a low sulfur content fuel has become mandatory in Singapore since 1998. The use of ultra-low sulfur diesel (0.005% by weight) is mandatory for diesel run vehicles since 2006, which actually complies with Euro 4 emission standards for diesel vehicles. Use of lead has not been discussed up till now however the use of unleaded fuel has been implemented in Singapore since July 1998.
Singapore has been a model for Asian countries in terms of urban developments and environmental management. The policies run by Singapore government has been promoting a sustainable development opportunities for Singaporeans. Singapore has rarely crossed contaminant levels beyond safe limits, except for particulate matters. PM is a major concern in Singapore as it has direct impact on human health. It is designated as one of the primary pollutants by USEPA. However it is beyond the scope of the study, it is mainly associated with the trans-border haze, caused by wild fires in the neighboring countries like Malaysia. Over the years many policies implemented by Singapore government like ultra-low sulfur fuel, unleaded fuel, GVR, ERP, VQS, most important increasingly greener public transport system have helped to reduce the emissions in the environment over the years. It is no wonder that Singapore has become a model of sustainable growth for developing countries as a result of good governance and accommodating Singaporean public. 

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