ICIMOD draws attention to Air Pollution Issues at BAQ Conference


ICIMOD’s  Atmosphere Initiative actively participated in this year’s Better Air Quality (BAQ) 2014 conference that took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 19 to 21 November 2014.  BAQ is Asia’s leading international conference on air quality, covering key sectors of transport, energy, industry, and climate change.  It is the flagship event of Clean Air Asia and over the years has made a significant contribution to influencing positive changes in air quality by bringing together policy makers, practitioners, and industry leaders of key sectors. 

In order to promote awareness of atmospheric issues among policy makers, ICIMOD hosted or co-hosted three events at the 2014 BAQ conference, each aimed at improving understanding of atmospheric issues in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. The first was held prior to the main event while the other two were held as side events at the conference. 

The first event was the Fifth Governmental Meeting on Urban Air and Joint Forum on Atmospheric Environmental Issues in Asia and the Pacific. During the meeting, representatives from various Asian countries shared their efforts to improve air quality in keeping with the Long-term Vision on Urban Air Quality, and discussed the draft Guidance Framework for Better Air Quality in Asian Cities. Dr Eklabya Sharma, Director for Programme Operations at ICIMOD, presented ICIMOD’s Atmosphere Initiative and its plans to contribute to improving air quality in the HKH region. He provided an overview of the region and ICIMOD’s ongoing efforts to address problems of air pollution in the mountains.

Since 2006, ‘Governmental Meetings on Urban Air Quality in Asia’ have been held every two years with the goal of harmonizing the approaches of Asian countries for tackling urban air pollution and related issues. These meetings are organized by UNEP and the Clean Air Asia and are an integral part of the BAQ conferences.

The second event, a break-out session of the main conference hosted by ICIMOD alone focused on ‘Cities and Mountains’.  It was held on 19 November 2014 at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), Colombo. It aimed to raise awareness about the effects of topography on urban air quality in cities surrounded by or near mountains, as well as raise awareness of two-way linkages between emissions in far away cities and mountain environments.  More than 30 participants including representatives from government and non-governmental organizations, policy makers, donors, practitioners, academics, researchers and media persons attended the session. 

The session was chaired by Dr Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Senior Climate Change Specialist and Programme Manager for the River Basins, Cryosphere and Atmosphere programmes at ICIMOD. Dr Arnico Panday, Senior Atmospheric Scientist and Coordinator of the Atmospheric Initiative at ICIMOD, made a presentation titled the ‘Cities and Mountains: Processes, Challenges, Interconnections and Opportunities’, which was received well by the audience. Dr Panday stressed that air pollution is an urgent issue that is responsible for millions of deaths across the world. He drew attention to the vulnerability of mountain environments to the effects of air pollution originating far away, as well as to the impacts on downstream cities of changes in rainfall patterns in mountain areas.  He stressed the transboundary nature of the problem and the important for countries in the region to work together to tackle this problem. Other panelists in the session were Dorji Tshewang from the National Environment Commission, Bhutan, Arjun Kumar Karki from the Ministry of Urban Development, Nepal, and Dr J S Kamyotra from the Central Pollution Control Board, India. The session successfully highlighted the links between air pollution in the cities and mountains.  Participants shared experiences in designing relevant science based policies.

The third event, which was held on 20 November 2014, was a break-out session aimed to raising awareness about Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs), their sources, and effective mitigation measures, and to highlight the links between global, national, and city level actions and activities related to air pollution and climate. The session was jointly organized by ICIMOD, Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), Clean Air Asia (CAA), the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), and Stockholm Environment Institution (SEI). More than 40 participants attended the session. 

Bidya Banmali Pradhan, Associate Coordinator of the Atmospheric Initiative at ICIMOD, chaired the session, which featured a panel discussion and a moderated discussion. Harry Vallack from Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Martina Otto from UNEP/CCAC, Eric Zusman from IGES, and Glynda Banthan from Clean Air Asia shared the work that their respective organizations are doing to reduce air pollution. Speakers at the panel discussion included Dr JS Kamyotra from Central Pollution Central Board, India, Sultan Ahmed from the Department of Environment, Bangladesh, Lanka Jayasuriya Dissanayake from the World Health Organization (WHO), Sri Lanka, Wang Yanjun from the Vehicle Emission Control Centre, China, and Nida Cabrera from Cebu City Government. 

In addition to the above three sessions, ICIMOD staff also participated in other sessions that covered a wide range of topics.  Prakash Bhave talked about on the use of Cardiovascular Impact Pathway for improving air quality in South Asia; Bijaya Sharma talked about a case study from Nepal on household energy and indoor air pollution; Arnico Panday talked about opportunities to address air pollution and health in Kathmandu; while Anjum Rashid presented a poster on and measurements and analysis of Ambient Air Quality in Islamabad, Pakistan. Throughout the conference, ICIMOD showcased its publications at an interactive information booth.