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Safa Hawa app launched to provide hourly air quality of Valley

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KATHMANDU — A new mobile application, Safa Hawa, has been launched to provide information regarding the current hourly updates on the quality of air prevailing in different areas of the city.

The US Ambassador to Nepal Alaina B Teplitz and Department of Environment (DoE) Director General Durga Prasad Dawadi have jointly launched the app on Thursday.

Developed by Bidhee Pvt Ltd with the support of the US Embassy in Nepal, Safa Hawa app users will receive information on PM 2.5 and ozone content recorded by two air-quality monitoring stations — one installed at the US Embassy premise another in Thamel.

Users can download the free app, available for both iOS and Android platforms in Nepali and English languages. It will update air-quality details every hour and send notifications and share health tips too, according to the developer.

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Ambassador Teplitz, speaking at the launch event, said the app would accelerate the move for the healthier Kathmandu, especially at the time when South Asian countries like Nepal struggle with severe air-pollution issues.

“Even without the necessary studies and data, everyone knows Kathmandu’s air quality is bad. We can see it and feel it almost every day. The questions are: How bad is it? And more importantly: What can we do about it?” she said.

Ambassador Teplitz further said that country’s poor air affects not only the health of citizens, but also other sectors like business and tourism. She hoped the information on air through the app would help the government deal with the deteriorating quality of air in the country, mainly in Kathmandu Valley.

Likewise, the DoE DG Durga Prasad Dawadi hoped the mobile application would soon disseminate data collected from all the air-quality monitoring stations of the government.

The global Environmental Performance Index (EPI), released in January, ranked Nepal last for the quality of air among 180 countries.

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Rice may be less nutritious in future, say researchers

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Rice — one of the world’s most important cereal crops and the primary food source for more than 2 billion people — will become less nutritious as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, potentially jeopardising the health of the billions of people who rely on the crop as their main source of food, researchers warn.

Researchers in Japan and China have found that exposing rice to the levels of carbon dioxide that are expected in the atmosphere before the end of the century results in the grain containing lower levels of protein, iron and zinc, as well as reduced levels of a number of B vitamins.

The research, published in the journal Science Advances, found on average from the varieties tested, protein levels fell by 10 per cent, zinc 8 per cent and iron 5 per cent. Levels of vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 also fell — though results were far more varied.

For the experiments, scientists built 17-metre-wide octagons in Japanese and Chinese rice paddies that pumped carbon dioxide to simulate the kind of CO2 concentrations expected in the next 50 years (568-590 parts per million).

“When we looked at vitamin B we looked at nine different varieties from Japan and China and they interestingly responded to high CO2 concentration in different ways,” the University of Tokyo’s Kazuhiko Kobayashi said.

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“Some varieties showed a very large decline, some varieties much less a drop of vitamin contents.”

Researchers are warning the nutritional changes could have significant health implications — especially in poorer countries.

“For some populations in the world, rice is a major source of protein and also vitamins and also some other minerals,” Professor Kobayashi said, “For those people, this is not very good news.”

Director of the ARC’s Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, Professor Bob Furbank, said in theory higher CO2 levels were a good thing for growth — but the reality proved somewhat different.

“On one hand we have the view that there will be a fertilising effect of having the extra carbon dioxide that’s available for photosynthesis — that’s certainly the case,” he said.

“This paper draws on the data they’ve produced to show there’s a detrimental effect on the quality of the rice grain in high CO2.”

Professor Furbank at the Australian National University said researchers should now study and breed varieties that will yield quality — not just quantity in high CO2 environments.

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“I think it’s crucial and the work we do in [our Centre of Excellence] is more around improving yields — so we’re looking more at how to boost the amount of food available to the global population,” he said.

While higher levels of carbon dioxide have previously been linked to lower levels of certain nutrients, such as proteins, in various crops, the study is the first time researchers have also looked at the impact on vitamins.

Agencies

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