Monday, November 19, 2018

From The WIRE - 'Urdu Wala Chashma', Episode 43: The Air Pollution Story of India

Nupur Sharma frames the air pollution story of India in the national and international context. She also highlights the staggering but less obvious human cost and economic burden caused by air pollution.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Delhi Air Quality Information - What is Contributing to PM2.5 Pollution Today?

This is modeled forecast result for the state of Delhi.
For more details visit

In the chart, you will see
  • 24-hr average PM2.5 concentrations in micro-gm/m3
  • Percent shares of all known sources in the region
  • AQI color code (as per India methodology)

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Air Quality in Delhi - Today and Tomorrow

The graph below presents PM2.5 concentrations for the last seven days (updated every 30 minutes), as reported by multiple networks in NCR. The modeled forecasts are updated once a day at 7pm (India time). For more, see

Friday, May 11, 2018

Breaking Down WHO 2018 AAP Database for Indian Cities

According to the database released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in April 2018, India has 14 of the top 15 most polluted cities in the world, when looking at PM2.5 pollution (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micro-meter) and among the megacities of the world, Delhi tops the list for PM10 pollution (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than 10 micro-meter). The WHO database covers 100 countries, for the period of 2011 and 2016.

That India accounts for 14 of the top 15 cities is not that surprising. This is partly because of an increase in the number of cities reporting measured PM2.5 and PM10. We argued in the past that Delhi gets undue attention of being the most polluted and/or the only polluted city in the country. It is about time we started to talk about air pollution in cities other than Delhi.

The table below presents a summary of the PM2.5 concentrations reported from India in the WHO (2018) database. For convenience and for greater relevance to human health, I am focusing on PM2.5 data only and not on PM10. The database does not report any information the other criteria pollutants – SO2, NO2, CO or Ozone.

For 33 cities, PM2.5 averages are from 2016 measurements and for another 102 cities, this value is based on a conversion factor between PM2.5 and PM10. All the PM10 measurements are older – 95% coming from 2012.

There is a significant difference between the averages – cities with PM2.5 measurements and cities with a converted value – converted averages are 37% lower than the measurements. In absolute terms, the measured averages are 8 times and the converted averages are 5 times, over the WHO guideline for annual PM2.5 (10 mg/m3). It is difficult to tell if the difference is coming from the fact that converted average is for year 2012 and the measurements are for 2016; or the conversion factor between PM2.5 and PM10 is questionable, which depends on multiple factors for any one city. Either way, while the database sheds some light the what the pollution levels are and that we have a long way to go to understand the true nature of the pollution levels in these cities.

While WHO claims that the list is not meant for ranking the global cities, it is inevitable that anybody looking at a list of 4,000 entries, is bound to rank them.

So, it is important to have some criteria in place to say whether the reported value for the city is representative or not. Of the top 15 cities, 14 from India, except for Delhi, Lucknow, and Agra, the remaining 11 cities – Kanpur, Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala, and Jodhpur, have one monitoring station each. I am not here to question if they deserve (or not deserve) to be on this list. Based on monitoring and modelling data from multiple sources, the Indo-Gangetic belt is known to be one of the most polluted regions in the world. My question is whether data based on one station per city is enough to rank them among the most polluted in the world?

The air pollution monitoring network is slowly expanding, as more cities are added to the regular manual monitoring network, under the national ambient monitoring program (NAMP) - operated and maintained by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB, New Delhi). As of May 2018, there are 700 manual stations measuring three criteria pollutants and 117 continuous stations measuring all the criteria pollutants. Note: of the 117 stations, 33 are operating in Delhi and most of the cities have just one continuous station, which is not a representative sample in any calculation.

In September 2017, the total number of continuous stations was 74 – that is a 50% increase in 6 months but still long ways from being representative of what is needed in Indian cities. I estimated that to spatially and temporally represent the pollution levels in India, we require 4,000 continuous stations – 2,800 in the urban areas and 1,200 in the rural areas. We need to move away from the manual monitoring network to continuous monitoring network, with real-time data dissemination, to reflect on latest information, instead of looking at data from 2 years ago.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Infograph - How Many Air Quality Monitoring Stations are Required in My City?

A general understanding is that an ambient monitoring station can represent an area covering 2 km radius, which translates to 15 (rounded off). If the city size is 1,000, then you need 67 stations spread across the city. In addition, we must also consider population density, the range of industrial activities, and local landuse, which will further determine the required number of stations.

For full note on ambient air quality monitoring, click here.

101 Notes on Air Pollution Monitoring

During a question and answer session in Delhi late last year, I was asked this question “Since Diwali, the Delhi government has installed 20 continuous monitoring stations. Despite that, why are the pollution levels still so high?”. The simple answer to this is that monitoring is a diagnostic tool to assess levels of air pollution and in and off itself does not reduce any air pollution. What it does do, is provide a starting point for understanding the air pollution problem and a direction for addressing pollution control options.

This however got me thinking. Having worked on air pollution related research for my entire career, I have to constantly remind myself of a cognitive bias while communicating on matters related to air pollution. This means that I (unknowingly) assume that others also understand the concepts related to air pollution as I understand them. This type of bias tends to be reinforced when speaking to other “experts” and the only way to break out of this bias is to communicate as clearly as possible to people. There are several topics within air pollution that I would like to speak about – such as source apportionment, dispersion modelling, emissions inventory, etc. However, in this discussion I will focus solely on “air pollution monitoring”.

This note is my attempt to explain air pollution monitoring – What purpose does it serve? Is ambient monitoring the same as emissions monitoring? How does one monitor? How do “low-cost” monitors fit in? These are some of the questions, I will try to answer in this brief (all the references used in this piece are from India, but the notes is relevant for other countries as well).

Direct link to the note

TED Video - Anirudh Sharma - Capturing Air Pollution for Art

Video - Joost Wesseling (RIVM) - Air Quality Measurements Using Cheap Sensors

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Infograph - How the Receptor Model Based Source Apportionment Works?

The 101 note is my attempt to explain air pollution monitoring – What purpose does it serve? Is ambient monitoring the same as emissions monitoring? How does one monitor? How do “low-cost” monitors fit in?

Building an effective air pollution control plan for the cities and the regions, it is important to know the contribution of sources. This is not a easy process, as it involves many steps, some related to field experiments, some related to laboratory analysis, some related to (statistical and predictive) modeling, and some related to linking the results to pollution control planning. We tried to structure these steps into this primer of pollution source apportionment, explaining the various steps involved in building an informed air quality management plan. You can download a pdf version of the primer here or browse the pages below.

Infograph - How Manual Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System Works?

The 101 note is my attempt to explain air pollution monitoring – What purpose does it serve? Is ambient monitoring the same as emissions monitoring? How does one monitor? How do “low-cost” monitors fit in?

Infograph - How Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System Works?

The 101 note is my attempt to explain air pollution monitoring – What purpose does it serve? Is ambient monitoring the same as emissions monitoring? How does one monitor? How do “low-cost” monitors fit in?

Infograph - Chicken and Brick Kilns

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Hazy Days Increase the Risk of Premature Death

“Although a hazy day generally has 2.9% higher risk [of death] than a day without haze, a very intense adverse effect is found on the mortality associated with mental and behaviour disorders,” the researchers reported. “A combined influence of haze, extreme weather/air quality and urban environment can result in extremely high mortality.” Read the full article @ The Guardian

The Hong Kong research, published in the journal Environment International, is the first to analyse the link of haze days and risk of death. Haze days are those on which pollutants gather in the air and cut visibility, usually dry days with low winds. In the study period from 2007 to 2014, there were 111 haze days when particle pollution was on average twice as high.

Delhi 2017-18 Winter Time PM2.5 Concentrations Above 300 micro-gm/m3

The data is worrying, but neither the Delhi government nor the Centre has made localised plans to deal with emissions. Read the full article @ Times of India

More on Delhi's air quality is @ 

Friday, January 26, 2018

SIM-air = Simple Interactive Models for Better Air Quality

The SIM-air, “Simple Interactive Models for better AIR quality”, family of tools have been developed to use the available information to support integrated urban air quality management. The modules are designed to estimate emissions and to simulate the interactions between emissions, pollution dispersion, impacts, and management options. All the databases, calculations, and interfaces are maintained in spreadsheets for easy access. For the analysis of emissions inventory and health impacts, a database of emission factors and concentration-response functions are included in the tools, which can be adjusted with specific data from cities.

These tools and supporting documentation are distributed for free @ urbanemissions.