Gufran Beig

Air Quality Monitoring is the first step

By: Staff Reporter

New Delhi, April 3 (G’nY News Service): With Delhi being declared the most polluted city in the world, voices are being raised from various corners demanding effective strategies and measures to address the issue.

On 10th March 2015 the union environment ministry stated that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and India Meteorological Department (IMD) – the three agencies monitoring air quality in Delhi – have also developed a standard operating procedure (SoP) of data ‘validation, analysis and dissemination’.

To understand the relevance of this move G’nY correspondent interacted with Gufran Beig, Chairman, Scientific Committee, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM). Dr Beig has been a pioneer in the field of atmospheric sciences and published several well acclaimed papers on the subject.

From a layman’s perspective how is air pollution data collected? What is real-time data?

Gufran Beig : Air pollution data is collected by two methods. One is by manual sampler where collecting one data point requires six hours. The air is then analysed in a machine. Thus, hardly two points in a day can be covered by this method. The most advanced one, which should be used more frequently, is the online automatic analyzers wherein you can get one point in one minute or in five minutes as you desire.

For System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), established by IITM, the data flow and forecast is as follows:

There are three air pollution monitoring agencies in Delhi. Between the three agencies there are 21 monitoring stations in the city, the highest for any city in the country. Is it enough or do we need more monitoring stations?

In general, more stations mean more observational data in close proximity and more accuracy is always better. But it is not practical as it scalates infrastructural costs. Hence, an optimized pathway, which is fulfilled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) an authorized intergovernmental agency for air, water and weather of United Nations, is that for a city like Delhi, 10 to12 stations are sufficient provided they are set up strategically and scientifically. I was part of the international team of authors of a technical report on guidelines provided by WMO which was published in 2014.

What is the advantage of having a single centralized system for monitoring air quality data rather than having three independent agencies reporting?

Gufran Beig : It is not a question of advantage or disadvantage but to provide the best possiblequality controlled and quality assured information for the benefit of thesociety. All agencies have different roles.

The primary aim of SAFAR is to provide the air quality forecasting services to the society in a simple to understand format. The forecasting service cannot beconceived unless you have a robust meso-network of air quality and weather monitoring systems.

SAFAR integrates a meso-network of ten air quality and weather stations, emission inventories and computer intensive air quality-forecasting model. Air pollution not only affects human health but also crop yield. SAFAR facilitates current and forecasts information 1 to 3 days in advance for O3, NOx, CO, PM2.5, PM10, benzene, toulene, xylene, weather parameters and UV-index.

What will be the parameters followed by the nodal agency? Will we have SAFAR’s data with a colour coding?

Gufran Beig : The colour coding has been provided by CPCB recently and isgoing to be released soon. There is not much difference from the colour codingand air quality index devised and provided by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in 2010.

What are the advantages of having real time data from automated weather station? Does it need validation from CPCB? And would that be done for realtime monitoring stations too?

Gufran Beig : Whatever may be the instrument and data gathering mechanism, data should be quality controlled and quality assured by a team of scientists and experts. But, for that purpose you need to have dedicated system and work culture. We at SAFAR get real time data and our scientists work 24×7 to make online data available. This is disseminated in near real time with a time lag of 30 minutes. We need more of such services to be in place.

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