Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Need for Monitoring and Dissemination in India

US and India haven't spelt out how their partnership on addressing air pollution will roll out, but scientists and advocacy groups are already excited about the possibilities. They say the partnership can help generate real-time, reliable air quality data for all cities, to begin with. Main article @ Times of India

Low-cost, innovative technology that can be deployed immediately in all major Indian cities can help clear the air, which is the main problem. Experts, like Sarath Guttikunda, associate research professor at the Desert Research Institute, Reno, suggested that establishing a national public health alert system on the lines of US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA)'s AirNow programme, which issues real-time air quality index (AQI) data for 400 cities in US, will be beneficial.

Evolution of On-road Vehicle Exhaust Emissions in Delhi

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which has the mandate of monitoring air quality and issuing health alerts, has "failed miserably", according to scientists who are now resorting to other agencies to get reliable data. "They have no real-time data for most cities and do not follow any calibration protocol, which is why there is a huge difference in the results of air quality monitoring by different agencies," said a scientist.

MoEFCC had launched an air quality index (AQI) last year. But, according to some committee members who helped formulate the AQI, CPCB's real time monitoring system has too many glitches and doesn't have enough automatic monitoring stations —only 16 out of 246.

Joshua Apte, assistant professor, University of Texas at Austin, who is running a unique research study in Delhi on monitoring exposure to air pollution in heavy traffic junctions, said he was excited that American scientists will have something to offer now. "The first step is just to expand the existing network of monitors. There are less than 50 real-time PM2.5 monitors that are reporting data to the web in India, as compared with nearly 2,000 in China. Other pollutants also need to be monitored," he said. This may also help point at the real sources by applying advanced 'source apportionment' techniques like 'vehicles versus biomass burning versus regional haze'.

Commentary on AQI (India Together)

Anumita Roychowdhury of CSE's Clean Air programme said, "We need low cost technology to monitor air quality that can be immediately and easily deployed across cities. US is doing innovative things like roadside exposure monitoring. Moving as soon as possible to superior fuel norms —Euro 6 among others—should be done now." Since the collaboration will also cover the government's pet project of smart cities, she says it's time to set norms and guidelines to reduce dependence on personal vehicles.

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