‘Monitoring fumes will raise life expectancy’

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Scotland’s major cities are being exposed to high levels of air pollution, according to environmental charities including WWF Scotland. Recent studies have shown that nitrogen dioxide levels are breaching EU targets aimed at protecting health.

Edinburgh, in particular, has a number of pollution hotspots, particularly the A8 corridor which extends west from the city centre towards the airport. The sheer volume of traffic which uses the route daily and the large numbers of families who live close by means this is an area of concern.

It is welcome news, therefore, that the Capital is to become the first council area in Scotland to monitor levels of pollution in real time in a bid to cut down on harmful emissions.

Environment chiefs are to install 20 advanced sensors along the A8 to track the levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

The new monitoring units will also check temperature, noise and vibration created by road traffic and send results back to HQ via Wi-Fi. Depending on the data gathered, officials could adjust the traffic management in the area.

This is not just a short-term quality of life issue, although that is a factor.

Westminster’s Environmental Audit Committee at Westminster has said that pollution from road traffic leads to an average of six months’ lower life expectancy for people living in the UK.

Understanding where and when these hotspots occur will help us manage this. But ultimately the big difference will be reducing the number of cars and buses on the road. And, whisper it, perhaps our much-maligned trams could actually help us all here.

Taking the plunge

WATER, water everywhere certainly made a group of locals in Balerno think.

And what may at first have seemed like an unlikely plan to go into the electricity business may soon become a reality.

The local village trust is set to have its plans to revive an old 
hydroelectric power station approved by planners and, assuming the enthusiasm can be matched by funding, it could be up and running by spring 2014. The electricity generated would then be sold and ultimately provide vital funding for local groups.

The scheme is a fantastic example of a community working together and coming up with innovative ideas to help themselves. Well done and good luck to them. Who knows, if energy bills keep soaring, maybe it won’t be the last scheme of its kind on the Water of Leith.