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EPA joins NASA in monitoring air pollution

EPA joins NASA in monitoring air pollutionChu Yu-chi, director of the EPA’s Department of Environmental Monitoring and Information Management, shows results from the 7-SEAS project. (Courtesy of EPA)

The ROC Environmental Protection Administration cooperated with NASA and six other nations in the region to set up the Seven SouthEast Asian Studies (7-SEAS) network to monitor air pollution, the EPA said Aug. 13.

The results from the South China Sea’s first such monitoring network are due to be published in the prestigious journal Atmospheric Environment by the end of this year.

NASA is the main organizer of the project, the EPA said, which includes agencies from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 7-SEAS aims to monitor how air pollution generated by slash and burn farming and the burning of agricultural waste moves across borders. It also looks at the interaction between pollution from such biomass burning and the environment, radiation and the atmosphere.

The monitoring began in February, with measurement stations located in such places as the Thai-Myanmar border; northern Vietnam; Mount Lulin and Hengchun in Taiwan; and Taiping Island and other ROC islands in the Pratas and Spratly archipelagos. Precision instruments were used to measure air quality and pollutants over a four-month period.

A total of 14 Taiwan agencies and research bodies joined in the monitoring this year, including the EPA, the National Science Council and Taoyuan County-based National Central University, the EPA said. Time was specially allocated from the experimental schedule of Taiwan satellite FORMOSAT-2 for it to produce high resolution images of the affected areas of the South China Sea to aid in the comparative analysis of the results.

Taiwan’s participation demonstrates it has the requisite technological skills that are up to international standards in atmospheric quality measurement and has the potential to become a center for monitoring Southeast Asian air quality, the EPA added.

As part of the 7-SEAS project, the EPA took measuring devices to Thailand’s Doi Ang Khan National Park. Besides determining the chemical signature of pollutants being produced by biomass burning on the Indochinese peninsula, the research also showed that pollutants were carried more than 3 kilometers high into the atmosphere where air currents were able to transport them to Taiwan, affecting air quality in Hengchun and on the western plains.

Taiwan is situated downstream of major Southeast Asian air currents, the EPA said, so in 2009 it collaborated with the Coast Guard Administration, Dongsha Marine National Park, Kaohsiung City Marine Bureau, NSC and NTCU to set up a monitoring station on the Dongsha Islands. In 2010, in cooperation with NASA, another measuring device was added, and in 2012 a solar radiation meter was installed on Taiping Island. (SDH)