Monitoring air quality accurately is a major challenge but the low-cost air quality sensors available in the market may not be best solution.
According to experts there is no standardization for the equipment, which you can order online from a number of websites, and their results are not always correct.
At an international conclave on air pollution organized by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), experts from South Africa, Kenya, Senegal and Delhi discussed how they are monitoring air quality and the challenges.
Dipankar Saha, who heads the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) air lab, said since there is no calibration of the instruments, it is difficult to say how precise they are.
“Many people are making these monitors at their homes but since there is no calibration or standardization, their effectiveness can’t be gauged,” he said.
Others at the conclave, however, said that calibration was not the biggest problem.
Harold Annegarn, professor, at the Energy Institute, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, said that precision in monitoring is not what is crucial.
“How precise the readings are is not key here. Looking for readings that have an error of margin of 1% will not change much. We need to look at managing the problem,” he said.
“It is very difficult to find the source of pollution. Even if we find it fixing responsibility is very tough. We need to look beyond monitoring and at measures such as cleaner fuel,” the professor said.
Air quality monitoring sensors are becoming more popular as the awareness about air pollution is increasing. These can be bought online for as low as Rs 4,000. The Delhi government recently bought a few portable sensors, each of which costs close to Rs 5 lakh.
The conclave also saw citizens and NGOs sharing ideas on decongesting the city. Giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists was what most participants suggested.
“Public space is shrinking because of parking. Cars are the highest priority on the roads. We laud the building of new flyovers but they do not reduce congestion,” said Sujit Patwardhan, founder of Parisar, a citizen’s body.
Shreya Gadepalli, from The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, stressed on street design, lanes for cycles and pedestrians and more parking charges to curb congestion.
Trying to bring into focus the issue of more flyovers and wider roads, her presentation ended with, “You can’t cure obesity with bigger pants.”