When chemist Miriam Lev-On, Ph.D., recently visited Agra, India, she toured the region and viewed the grandeur of the Taj Mahal—the 17th Century mausoleum that is one of the world's most celebrated monuments.
But as memorable as the Taj Mahal was, it was another sight that left a lasting impression on Dr. Lev-On. “In the Agra air—and on the horizon—you can see a heavy haze,” she says. Viewed from a distance, the Taj Mahal looms in the shadows of growing industrialization and is frequently enveloped in haze. Concerns that the increased pollution will eventually turn the gleaming white Taj Mahal black and structurally weaken its marble have spurred the Indian government to launch an initiative to save the monument.
Beyond the pollution's corrosive damage to the Taj Mahal and other buildings, there is, of course, a human toll, including higher incidence of respiratory disease, hospitalization, and death.
The situation in India is indicative of the growing pollution problem in developing countries, Dr. Lev-On says. As emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter decline or slow in industrialized nations, many developing countries are seeing rapid growth in energy-related pollution as a result of rapid urbanization and the associated growth in industry and transportation systems.
In light of this challenge, the International Urban Air Quality Forum will address the “Impact of Fuel Choices on the Environment in Developing Countries.” Dr. Lev-On will lead the Forum. She is founder and executive director of The Levon Group, an environmental consultancy and facilitation services company based in Thousand Oaks, CA, and an A&WMA member since 1980.
For the seventh straight year, the popular Forum will occur in conjunction with the Annual Conference & Exhibition, which this year will be held June 21- 24 in Minneapolis, MN. Closely integrated with the Annual Conference Technical Program, the Urban Air Quality Forum will provide attendees with an opportunity to hear technical background issues, learn application strategies surrounding the impact of fuel choices for mobile and stationary source emissions, and explore the societal consensus needed to effect change. Forum topics will address:
- Barriers to multi-stakeholder engagement in public policy discussions,
- The role of fuel choices on transportation and mobility related concerns, and
- Considerations of energy sources for industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.
A focus on transportation and mobility issues is important, Dr. Lev-On says, because of the dramatic effects of fuel choices, particularly in metropolitan areas, where buses and trucks often are powered by diesel engines. In some cases, diesel emissions are compounded by unique local circumstances, such as “auto rickshaws”—vehicles that are fueled by homemade and highly pollutant mixtures of kerosene and engine lubricant.
However, she stresses it is equally important to consider stationary sources of pollution in developing countries. Dr. Lev-On points to the significant share of energy consumption that comes from traditional biomass, which includes wood, charcoal, agricultural residues, and animal waste. Although data on biomass in developing countries is limited, some estimates show that biomass is the principal fuel choice in more than 40 percent of the world's households.
“One area that is often neglected in many analyses is the impact of fuels used for commercial and residential activities,” she says. “Although each of these emission sources might be small, they are numerous and widely spread in the community, thus having a large impact on overall population exposure.”
Using real-life case studies, Forum speakers will share their experiences and lessons learned in addressing these problems. “We're looking to provide people with tangible solutions to these problems—ideas that they can take home and implement in their own countries,” she says
As in previous years, the Forum will include plenary panels and roundtable sessions that allow participants to interact with panelists. A summary report of the roundtable recommendations will be developed for participants to share with their colleagues.
For more information on the Urban Air Quality Forum and the Annual Conference, visit and bookmark www.awma.org/ace2005, or call A&WMA Member Services at 1-412-232-3444 or 1-800-270-3444.