India’s indigenous air quality forecasting model gets international peer-review
The first official, indigenous framework to forecast air quality in four Indian metro cities, namely Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Delhi by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), was published in the international peer-reviewed Elsevier Journal of Environmental Modelling and Software on Tuesday, September 22. Experts say this could give a significant boost for installing this framework other non-attainment cities under the Centre’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP), which itself mandates that cities have a pre-emptive air quality forecasting mechanism.
Dr Gufran Beig, founding project director at SAFAR, described this framework as a single-window solution for forecasting bad air days, to inform mitigation measures and develop “micro-specific air action plans”. “SAFAR’s forecasting model is comparable to the framework by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA),” he said.
SAFAR’s methods were presented as part of a study titled ‘India’s maiden air quality forecasting framework for megacities of divergent environments: The SAFAR-project’ and was led by researchers at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune, in collaboration with the India Meteorological Department and Bhubaneshwar’s Utkal University.
The forecasting model consists of six different verticals, which include the Observational Network for Air Pollution and Weather Parameters, Quality Control and Quality Assurance, Inventory of Emissions (to monitor the source of emissions), SAFAR’s own Air Quality and Weather Forecasting Model, followed by “data-to-information translation” in the form of the air quality index (AQI) component which can be used by researchers, policymakers and citizens. Finally, there is a sixth component under the banner of ‘Technology and Outreach for Product Development and Dissemination’.
“SAFAR uses round-the-clock air quality and weather parameter measurements, scientific analysis to improve forecasting capabilities with basic research, which can be disseminated to as many stakeholders as possible, including government agencies, educational institutes, and the general public, to ensure maximum,” said Dr Beig, adding that this model may well be scaled up to all other 128 non-attainment cities listed under the NCAP, which do not meet Centrally prescribed standards of air pollution.
India currently has 132 non-attainment cities under its NCAP program, which aims to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20 to 30% by 2024 (the base year 2017).
Using this forecasting model, Urban Local Bodies (ULB) will also be able to issue timely health advisories publicly, to alert citizens on days when the regional AQI touches hazardous level, thereby helping vulnerable groups to minimize exposure to air pollution and attendant severe health impacts. The recent Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) 2019, published by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), had estimated that around 40% of Indians’ life expectancy will reduce by as much as nine years due to exposure to PM, which are fine respirable particles that remain suspended in ambient air.