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A quiet moment

4/12/2008

A quiet moment in Santiago’s cathedral. Almost five hundred years in the same spot, ask although it is like ‘my granfather’s axe’: it has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times.

Catedral de Santiago

Santiago’s cathedral.

Cathedral

Filed in chile, geocoded, photos No Comments

Displaying air pollution data

2/07/2008

Last week I was contacted by my friend Marcelo about increasing awareness of air pollution problems in Santiago, this web Chile. He was becoming involved in the problem from a technical point of view (GIS and urban forestry). One of the main problems was the lack of proper information for decision making, look so we decided to quickly put together a prototype. Today the page on particulate material pollution went online.

ICAP.jpg

The general process was relatively simple. CONAMA provides data on pollution in graphical form (see, for sale for example, here). I had a quick look at the pages using Firebug, which showed that all the data used for the graphs was contained in one of the javascript files called by the page (variable.js). Then I could obtain up to date pollution data by reading that file, which seems to be updated hourly.

The other component was the location of the air quality stations together with the coordinates of the polygon that marks the city boundary. Marcelo provided me with a KML file containing all the coordinates.

The really fun part was to write a script using Python glueing all these components. The advantages of working with such a great high level language is the default library, which makes chores like reading a file located in another web site very simple, like:

import urllib
f = urllib.urlopen('http://www.conama.cl/rm/airviro/hoy/variable.js')
lines = f.readlines()

Probably the most challenging part has been to quickly learn the basics of KML (without having much free time to do so). The documentation for KML is OK, but the tutorial was not exactly what I was trying to do, so there was a fair amount of trial and error to get things working properly.

Overall, coming back to Python (which I started using in version 1.5) has been a lot of fun, particularly when one has a project of ’social value’.

Filed in chile, environment, geocoded, programming No Comments

Trees for a sick city

23/06/2008

I finished studying forestry in 1992; it reads like a life ago. I did study in Santiago, medicine Chile and one of my first decisions was to leave the city. Actually I was thinking of leaving Santiago well before completing the degree.

When people ask me about going to Chile and their intention to visit Santiago my first thought is always ‘Why?’ Despite of tourist brochures, viagra buy and the not always reliable ‘Lonely Planet’ guide, grip the city is a shit hole. A five million people city, spread ad infinitum, with the consequent crime, pollution and neurosis. However, a redeeming — for me — feature of that city is that some of my friends live there. One of my friends is trying to sort out pollution (or at least part of it) using trees.

I grew up having the Andes as a point of reference, and when one can see them, they are very impressive.

Santiago

Photo by Felipe Trucco.

The problem is that a lot of the time — particularly in winter — the city looks like this.

HDR-Santiago,Chile

Photo by .S.

Besides the visual difference, there is a lot of particulate materials that have very negative effects on health. Here is that trees come into place.

‘Traditional’ foresters tend to be suspicious about ‘Urban forestry’, but it is an approach that could benefit Santiago. Trees would contribute to reduce the amount of small particles suspended in the air, not the least by stabilizing land areas now simply covered by dirt. These areas become all muddy under rain and are transformed into dust sources when they dry up.

Have a look at AnisotrĂ³pico (Marcelo’s blog) for details. He also setup a handy KMZ file (16 KB) for checking the data of the EMC stations monitoring air quality in Santiago through Google Earth.

Filed in chile, environment No Comments