Monitoring Air pollution in India, Using Technology Just Got a Boost
Air pollution is caused due to a variety of reasons such as crop burning, emissions from vehicular traffic, polluting industries such as brick kilns, chemical manufacturing, tanneries, textiles, mining, and construction.
The fine particulate matter has the most negative effect on the health of a population. Air pollution monitoring can be done using a diagnostic tool to assess the levels of air pollution in a city, country, or even globally.
Monitoring is not by itself a solution, and it merely indicates the health problems that could arise owing to the deterioration in air quality and it gives us a direction for combating the environmental degradation through proper policy formulation and implementation.
Ambient air pollution monitoring and measuring emissions will help in assessing the amount of pollution in the air and its impact on health.
Ambient Air pollution is a mixture of all gases from all the sources. Ambient air pollution value can only be ascertained when all the emissions disperse and mix with other sources.
Monitoring Air Pollution
To measure ambient air pollution, a station needs to be located 3 to 10m above the ground. There should be multiple monitors at different areas in a city, town or village. Air pollution needs to be monitored at different periods of the day/night, and also during different seasons.
Measuring emissions is different from measuring ambient air quality measurement. To understand how much pollution is occurring from which source, one needs to also invest in emissions monitoring.
Prescribed emission norms exist for most of the sectors such as automobiles (vehicular emission norms) as well as for industries. Industries need to apply for environmental clearance for their plants to adhere to the accepted standards.
Monitoring air pollution and representing the pollution levels in the city through heat maps is useful in providing a visual summary of information. Heat maps use color to communicate the relationship between different sets of data. It is a “two-dimensional representation of data in which colors represent values.” Elaborate heat maps also represent complex data.
Air Pollution and health effects
Air pollution is one of the major cause of deaths in our country. Out of 12.4 lakh deaths, 6.7 lakh deaths happened due to outdoor particulate matter air pollution, while 4.8 lakh deaths were due to household air pollution. Globally, India suffered 26 percent of premature mortality and health loss attributable to air pollution.
Based on The Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALYs) attributable to air pollution for major non-communicable diseases, people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution are prone to the following diseases:
- Chronic obstructive lung disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Lung cancer which is equal to those consuming tobacco
Globally, air pollution is estimated to cause about 29% of lung cancer deaths, 43% of COPD deaths, about 25% of ischemic heart disease deaths, and 24% of stroke deaths.
Although air pollution can be monitored on a day to day basis and based on time, the long term health impact assessments can be made only through long term trends in monitoring ambient air quality for a city or a country or the whole globe.
The impact of chronic exposure to high levels of air pollution for example of PM 2.5, PM 10 and NOx, etc., can be linked to the number of premature deaths in a year due to increase in the occurrence of diseases. Exposure to a high concentration of pollution levels over a shorter period can also cause asthma, inflamed sinus, skin and eye irritations, etc.
Information maps – to predict Air Pollution
In response to the growing environmental degradation, Valluri Technology Accelerators (VTA) in Bangalore has developed Urban Techtonix, an environmental decision-support system that forecasts air pollution to aid proactive decision-making.
It is now being implemented in Bangalore, in a project being done along with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB). Urban Techtonix has been developed to deliver specific benefits for environmental control.
- Cost-effective: Urban Techtonix is an analytics-based solution, and minimizes the need for expensive hardware environmental monitoring equipment
- Predictive Insights: Forecasts delivered by Urban Techtonix can enable proactive decision-making. Authorities can act in anticipation of environmental episodes rather than being limited to reactionary/damage-control measures.
- Easily Scalable and replicable: The analytical engines and algorithms in Urban Techtonix can be easily scaled up to provide forecasts for different and larger areas, without requiring installation of additional equipment or infrastructure.
Using a robust tool to monitor air pollution, which is cost effective can go a long way in monitoring the health impacts on an urban and rural population in India. Extensive research linking health impacts and air pollution specific to our country will help in formulating stringent regulations to help control air pollution and its adverse effects on health. Proactive implementation and use of clean energies can result in a positive outcome for the health of our nation in particular and the world in general.
– Madhu Valluri