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Asian Brown Cloud

The report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on the three-kilometre brown cloud hanging over Asia zeroes in on this kind of fuel burning as the source of the cloud that is disrupting monsoons, lowering agricultural output and creating air pollution leading to respiratory diseases.
“The big problem here could be cooking at home,” says Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen of the Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany. Crutzen won the Nobel Prize for his work on discovering the ozone hole.
It is a problem that will now have to be addressed by governments in South Asia, says Prof V. Ramanathan of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, one of the leading scientists involved in the study, conducted between 1995 and 1999 at a cost of about $40 million.
“The sliver lining to this cloud is that it can be tackled relatively soon if the correct policy decisions are taken,” he says.
The Supreme Court of India took the lead in introducing compressed Natural gas (CNG) in buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws in the country. But the court had no idea of the magnitude of the cloud hanging overhead which its order could do nothing to remove.
The cloud cannot be tackled at the level of handling pollution in New Delhi or some other cities. Ramantahan says: “We are seeing great variation in this cloud not just across Asia but over parts of India as well.”
The Asian Brown Cloud, as the scientists are calling it, “should not be seen as something static,” he said. “It is moving about all the time.”
Scientists indicate a revolution of lifestyles will be needed across India, Pakistan and China acting together.
This will mean common policies against burning of fossil fuels, of agricultural wastes, against emissions from industries and power stations, and above all, against emissions from the millions of inefficient cookers in homes using fuels like wood and cow dung.
The brown clouds these fuels have created over Asia have …

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