Love is in the air but “what” is also in the Air?
Quantum physics, GPT-3, AI/ML, and many more hard topics or algorithms are easy enough for everyone to read and understand these days but knowing the intricacies of air pollution falls apart. The discussion happens only when we see headlines on TV or print media reporting, “India is home of 22 of 30 most polluted cities in the world” and fades away after 24 hours.
As per the recent report by IQAir which accessed air quality parameters across 7,706 cities in 106 countries, found top 10 of the 20 most polluted cities are in “Uttar Pradesh”. The capital city, Lucknow, which has only 4 standalone monitoring stations installed by the pollution control board is 8th highest in the world.
In 2020, we went into 4–5 months of complete lockdown due to SARA-CoV2, despite that, the annual concentration of one of the primary pollutants, Particulate Matter of diameter 2.5 for city of Luckow in 2020 was 86.2 ug/m3, which is harmful to human health, especially children and old people.The permssible limit from WHO(World Health Organisation) is 30 ug/m3. The annual average levels are close to 3x the normal limits.
How can we bell the cat? For a city like Lucknow with 5 crore people and abundant flora and fauna, having 4 standalone air monitoring stations is not healthy and it has to be supported with real-time stations across the city where major contributors are from transportation, industries, construction, road dust, garbage burning, biomass cooking, episodic crop residue burning.
Here are 2 are of the many possible and time-consuming approaches we can see,
Low-cost sensors: Recently, low-cost air quality sensors (LCS)have emerged as an alternative that can improve the granularity of air monitoring thereby identifying the “local sources” in specific areas. By installing this LCS across multiple areas, it helps to narrow down and identify the particular pollutant, source, and hence steps to mitigate it. This creates awareness and a ripple effect among citizens, hence the narrative around “air pollution” and solution for pollution begins simultaneously. Also, the citizens are informed about the level of pollution in real-time, with help of App or SMS or display boards, which helps, triggers conversation, and keeps them to be part of the system and solutions.
Municipal level approach: We can install the low-cost units across each ward of municipal corporations with a dedicated “health budget”.
To give an example for Lucknow city, we have close to 110 wards, if we install 1 unit for 2 wards, we can study the primary cause and pollutant in all the 55-110 places and easily narrow down and categorize most and least polluted areas. This approach reaches more people, government officials, which caters to resolve the air pollution at the “local level” before it again becomes “national level” news. The real-time (continuous) monitoring of pollutants shifts the focus to solve the root cause and thereby control the pollutants and cut the rate of pollution to 60–80% annually.
Keeping watching this space for more approaches/solutions to mitigate air pollution.