India needs better technologies and monitoring systems next five years to manage air pollution: Experts


New Delhi: An estimated 1 million green jobs are available within the air quality domain alone, said Prof SN Tripathi, Senior Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Kanpur.

“Developing and building these jobs, available within academia, tech, and health sectors, can significantly help in taking the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) forward to its second phase,” he added.

Speaking at the India Clean Air Summit 2022 (ICAS 2022), on the theme of ‘Looking at Air Pollution through the Climate Lens’ organised by the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Prof Tripathi said that a proposal for hybrid-style monitoring to complement government monitoring has been formulated and forwarded to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for their approval.

There is an urgent need to significantly increase the scope of monitoring and the number of data points to enable better monitoring and management of air pollution levels, said Tiwari.

“Currently we do not have a comprehensive air quality management programme, even our academics are not fully trained in the sole study of air quality. Air quality management necessitates the development of such a standard, as well as the participation of health and economic experts. This programme, which is interdisciplinary, cannot be offered by a single department. I believe that in the next five years, we will require at least 1000 such professionals equipped with the right knowledge. This program can even be extended to include bureaucrats,” he said.

With the deadline for the first phase of NCAP approaching, the second phase (NCAP 2.0) will need to look at how CPCB can promote new technologies.

“Drawing from the experience of other countries, we need to look at how we can deploy multiple technologies like low-cost sensors and satellite monitoring to ensure we have robust data that both informs policies and helps us develop targeted solutions,” Prof Tripathi added..

Ashish Tiwari (IFS), Secretary, Department of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of Uttar Pradesh, highlighted challenges in policy planning, knowledge, resources, and governance, stressing on the need for virtual, multi-level monitoring, which the UP government is currently developing.

“We need to synergise action between various departments. Convergence of policies to reduce air pollution by aiming at specific sectors is needed. About 30000 industries are air polluting in UP. Human monitoring is not possible. Thus, virtual monitoring is needed. A 3-tier monitoring mechanism to observe city-level compliance is under development. Air pollution-sensitive sectoral schemes with targets prioritising polluted areas are the need of the hour,” Tiwari said.

Principal Secretary, Forest, Ecology and Environment, Government of Karnataka, Vijay Mohan Raj (IFS), stressed on the need to look at development paradigms from a carbon-neutral perspective and to build a network of people that made collective efforts towards addressing air pollution and climate change at local levels.

“We see more and more people visiting ‘oxygen-rich areas’. Nature has become a miracle drug, but it may not remain so for long,” he said, adding that the department has embarked on a pilot initiative to map trees in Bengaluru to locate oxygen-rich and carbon-neutral areas” he added.

Dr Pratima Singh, Head of the Centre for Air Pollution Studies (CAPS), said that addressing the challenges of air pollution requires a wide understanding of climate change as well, and at ICAS 2022, the focus is on looking at how policies on air pollution and climate change can converge.

“Looking at air pollution using a climate lens can help us find a way to a secure and sustainable environment. Working in silos is no longer an option if we want implementable solutions. By bringing together different communities, we want to bridge gaps in knowledge and find solutions that work,” she said.

The event was organised to examine how India’s energy transition to renewable energy would impact the dual crises of air pollution and climate change.

Participants also discussed measures to improve the implementation of the National Clean Air Programme the need for data democratisation, and building partnerships with different communities to implement solutions on the ground.


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