English | Dzongkha Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Black carbon emissions increase

Pema Tshewang, Thimphu
May 17, 2018

Bhutan is known to be one of the countries with the cleanest air but recent reports suggest the country’s air may not be as clean as it is thought to be. An increase in black carbon concentration has been observed in recent times.

Black carbon is fine particles in smoke emitted by diesel engines and wood burning. Industries, diesel-powered cars and forest fires have been found to be major emitters of black carbon in Bhutan.

Black carbon impacts human health. The inhalation of the sooty black material is particularly harmful for people with asthma and other respiratory health conditions. It is also known to cause cardiovascular diseases, cancer and birth defects.

Arnico Panday is a Senior Atmospheric Scientist with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).  He said black carbon can spread up to 2,000 kilometres from its place of origin.

“It is not only black carbon emitted from within Bhutan, but the sooty black material emitted from neighborhood places can enter the country’s atmosphere,” Arnico Panday said.

“Once, we did a study on black carbon in Kathmandu in Nepal where within one day we got black carbon from Punjab in India.”

Apart from health impacts, black carbon absorbs the sunlight and reduces agricultural productivity.

“When you have very hazy atmosphere, let’s say in Phuentshogling, you do not see the sun very well. It’s not cloud and it’s not fog. It is a bit darker and that’s black carbon absorbing sunlight,” Arnico Panday said.

Black carbon in the air also affects visibility, harms ecosystems and exacerbates global warming. It has been rated as the second most significant contributor to climate change.

A climate observatory instrument stationed in Chele La was inaugurated on Tuesday. The instrument will help in measuring the level of black carbon in the atmosphere.

The findings will serve as guideline for policy makers and relevant stakeholders to adopt measures to curb black carbon emissions.

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