Satellites and drones to monitor pollution in smoggy China

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Aug 05, 2015 19:00 IST

Satellites, drones and remote sensors will soon be deployed across China to detect pollution levels over land, sea and air, state media reported Wednesday, indicating that the normal methods to identify pollution levels hasn’t really shown expected results. Or, that the levels have exceeded expected limits.

China according to international organisaitons is not only among the world’s top polluters but it also has some of the most polluted cities.

But as awareness about the severe health risks about pollution increases, Chinese citizens often express their anger about the issue.

In a latest move to curb pollution, the government has now said that by 2020 it will put in place a comprehensive network of “satellites, drones and remote sensers” to detect pollution; the technology will be used to monitor the environment.

The state-run China Daily newspaper, quoted the Ministry of Environment as saying the Communist Party of China leadership approved the plan in July.

“Satellites, a major tool for monitoring air pollution, will receive a boost this year. The ministry (of environment) said it will accelerate research on two atmospheric environmental monitoring satellites and two satellites with higher resolution than those currently available,” the newspaper said.

The newspaper added that remote monitoring did play a bigger role in locating sources of pollution. For example, drones “helped authorities locate polluted areas in the Tengger Desert in northern China and identify scattered summer straw burnings.”

One of the most polluted provinces in China, Hebei, which is located close to Beijing has been using satellites from the Satellite Environment Centre to monitor smog since January.

Satellites were also used over Beijing to monitor pollution during the high-profile Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting last November in Beijing.

“We used data from the centre's satellites to forecast the movement of smog during the APEC,” Zhang Feng, an engineer in Hebei’s environmental department, told the newspaper.

Zhang added that environmental satellites are at present used as support tools as there are not enough satellites. “After the (Hebei) province builds a system to analyse and process data by the end of this year, the satellites will become more important.”

Last Monday evening, Beijing was brought to a standstill by a royal rainbow across a rare clear sky that had thousands and thousands citizens standing and clicking photos. If satellites and drones could help clear up the sky more, no one would be complaining.

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