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Editorial comment

Pictures of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption in Iceland, which grounded aircraft across Europe and elsewhere for almost a week, show a massive cloud of particulate matter rising thousands of metres into the air. On the nightly news, maps showed that ash cloud drifting south, east and west, stretching across Russia, down to Italy and across to the eastern edge of North America. While there have been concerns over the affect of the ash cloud on respiratory health, these do not seem to have amounted to much, and today I have read that – incredibly – there is a good chance that the volume of CO2 emitted by this massive cloud will equate to less than that which would have been emitted by the aeroplanes that could not fly through it. Indeed, Dr Mike Burton from Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology told BBC News that the CO2 output from volcanoes (which emit gas even when not erupting) ‘pales into insignificance beside human emissions’.

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Watching the cloud grow and spread across two continents, it was impossible not to wonder about the spread of emissions that we cannot see. At the time of writing, it was evident that Iceland was not nearly so affected by the volcanic eruption as its neighbours to the south, east and west. What, then, becomes of the industrial emissions from China, for example – carried away on the prevailing wind?

This, our Special Environmental Issue of WORLD CEMENT, is dedicated to the discussion of ways to improve environmental performance, meet existing and future regulations, and become more sustainable, both in terms of working practices and in regard to the final product. Included herein are articles about filtration, reducing dust emissions at a cement plant, mercury monitoring and gas analysis, quarry rehabilitation, alternative fuels, and alternative cementitious products. The map of the ash cloud clearly showed that the benefits of reducing national emissions will not necessarily be felt nationally, while national emissions may have far-reaching effects – in this case not only leaving holiday-makers stranded, but also depriving Kenyan flower and fruit producers of a market to sell to. In order to create a real and lasting effect, all countries must instigate policies to cut emissions, and working by sector is the best place to begin. For an insight into how key industry players are thinking on this topic, turn to our Q&A on Reducing CO2 on page 122. Here, the questions are posed by our Managing Editor, Paul Maxwell-Cook, and the answers are provided by some of the industry’s leading minds.

Also in this issue is a Regional Report from Central Asia. Case studies from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia illustrate that this oft neglected region is open for business, and in need of cement. Further east, China and Taiwan are the topic of this month’s Regional Insight, available for subscribers to download from 1st May; Paul Maxwell-Cook provides further details on page 9.

I hope that by the time you read this, air travel has returned to normal, postal deliveries are arriving on schedule, and you are happily at your final destination. Next time, remember that you don’t need to wait for the dust to settle to receive your copy of the magazine – subscribers can download the issue online wherever in the world they are!