Thursday, October 6, 2011

Air pollution in Ankara, Turkey

Here is a photo of Ankara taken from my temporary office window. Notice the thick layer of smog over the city. 

I found an article from a Turkish newspaper taking about Ankara's air pollution:

"The large increase in natural gas prices and the distribution of free coal by municipalities prior to local elections has led to an enormous jump in pollution levels in Ankara, reaching 9,350 micrograms per cubic meter in the Sıhhiye district. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, the acceptable level of pollution is a maximum of 300 micrograms. "This is one of the highest levels in the world’s history. When pollution rose over 4,000 micrograms per cubic meter in London in 1952, approximately 4,000 people died," Dr. Recep Akdur, an expert in public health, said yesterday." (December, 2008)

Air pollution seems to be an issue for Ankara and elsewhere and can have significant negative health impacts - in cities more than elsewhere. A research paper recommends switching away from coal (rather than distributing it free, as has happened in the past in Ankara-before elections, I am told). Given transport is also partly responsible, efforts to switch to electric cars can also have a beneficial impact on urban pollution and hence public health.

Good economics is about wellbeing or happiness (utility), not only about getting rich, although this is obviously an important component. Pollution on these levels reduces life quality, life expectancy and the negative impact on health likely causes lost work days and school, reducing human capital, economic output and wealth. This youtube video shows the true cost of fuel which takes into account these negative side-effects:

High-pollution development models are reaching their limit.