New Delhi: Experts at India’s first Air Sensors International Conference (ASIC India) have raised concerns over India’s “critically low” air quality monitoring stations and saying that these “under-equipped” monitoring stations are major hindrances to framing effective policies for air pollution mitigation.
Inaugurating, the conference, as part of the India Clean Air Summit 2022 (ICAS 2022), Dr Pratima Singh, who leads the Centre for Air Pollution Studies (CAPS) at CSTEP, said that the critical shortage of air quality monitoring stations in India, which, in turn, has resulted in a dearth of information on air pollution levels in the country.
“Although the CPCB recommends four continuous monitoring stations per million population, we are woefully behind in meeting this target. Ideally, India needs at least 4000 monitors but has just 969 (as of 2020). Moreover, most of these are located in the Delhi-NCR region; most of north-east, central, and western India have very few monitors, and when they do exist, they tend to be concentrated in urban areas,” said Dr. Singh.
The Conference (ASIC India), was organized as part of the India Clean Air Summit 2022 (ICAS 2022) and looked at how sensor technology could augment data availability. ASIC was brought to India by the Center for Study of Science, Technology, and Policy (CSTEP) and UC Davis Air Quality Research Center.
Talking about low-cost sensors she said that Sensors can help detect air pollution hotspots in different parts of the country, adding, “However, to use these effectively, we need to ensure access to information and awareness on the different types of sensors and how to interpret the data”.
“More importantly, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) need to form a body of experts to develop processes for certifying sensors by putting in place standard operating procedures. The body must ensure that the data are interpreted and used correctly” Singh said.
Vasu Kilaru, Scientist, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), during a panel discussion, highlighted that standardization of sensors will ensure consistent data format and output making it easier to integrate and enable easy dissemination as well as accurate interpretation.
Low-cost sensors have helped raise citizens’ interest in air quality, noted Bhavreen Kandhari, co-founder of Warrior Moms.
“Sensor networks are like weapons. They make data accessible and help us engage with citizens to act against rising air pollution. Moreover, they help communicate science to citizens,” she added.
Prof. SN Tripathi of IIT Kanpur discussed how machine learning (ML) was now being used to decrease the time taken to collocate sensors, and improve their accuracy and reliability. “Our research has found that with sufficiently strong ML and robust, high-end data, this could even be possible,” he said.
ASIC India marks the final day of the 4-day India Clean Air Summit. Through ASIC India, CSTEP and UC Davis Air Quality Research Center hope to build a community of practitioners who can contribute to India’s vision for using sensor technology for better air pollution monitoring and management.