Delhi’s fight against pollution set to get smarter
The Delhi government will start in six-seven months its first source apportionment project and real-time monitoring of pollution, tools which will be employed to make better strategies to curb air pollution in Delhi.
Source apportionment is the practice of deriving information about pollution sources and the amount they contribute to ambient air pollution levels.
The new model was finalised after a meeting on Tuesday between Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and a team of scientists from IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Delhi and The Energy Resources Institute (TERI). The scientists made a presentation before the chief minister and said that the new system will not just provide data on the concentration of PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) in the air, but will also give information on the constituents of these fine particles, a first for the national capital.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Delhi government said, “Source apportionment project in Delhi, along with setting up of an advanced monitoring system of real-time pollution sources will help in monitoring sources and allow Delhi government to take immediate action against these sources.”
According to a Swiss based group, IQ AirVisual, Delhi was listed as the world’s most polluted capital city for the second straight year in 2019. The study measured the concentration of hazardous PM2.5, particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter and can be carried deep into the lungs, as higher PM2.5 levels could cause deadly diseases, including cancer and cardiac problems. Every winter, the city’s air turns toxic with the air quality mark reaching emergency levels on several days.
Explaining the new model, scientists involved with the project said the collection and assessment of data will be done at two levels -- through a ‘super site’ and through ‘mobile air labs’.
Advanced air quality monitoring equipment will be set up at the ‘super site’ in different locations where hourly data for pollutants will be recorded. Scientists said these sites will not only provide data on levels of PM 2.5 in that location at any given point of time but will also give details of the composition of ultrafine particles, using which the exact source of pollution can be traced.
“These ‘super sites’ will help authorities act immediately against the sources. Apart from short-term action, the recordings will facilitate long-term analysis, helping agencies draw up policies. For instance, the agencies will know which pollution sources are consistently contributing to the pollution levels in an area and action can be taken to tackle it permanently,” said Mukesh Sharma, professor (department of civil engineering), IIT-Kanpur, who led the team of scientists during the meeting with Kejriwal.
“Daily variations can depend on temporary things like construction activities or high traffic movement but if it is persistently contributing to the poor air quality in an area then solutions need to be drawn,” Sharma added.
Currently, Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) air quality monitoring stations provide hourly average data on PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) last year started real-time monitoring at 13 pollution hot spots.
At a more micro level, the scientists are also developing ‘mobile air labs’, which will move around the city and record pollution levels and specific sources at a particular period of time.
Sumit Sharma, director, earth science and climate change division, TERI, who is also involved with the project, said air quality models will also be used to record details such as from where the pollution is coming and what could be the strategies to control it.
“The Delhi government told us very clearly that they have source apportionment studies available with them, but those studies are static studies giving details for a particular period of time. They (government) wanted daily and hourly data of emissions and which sources are contributing to these levels, using which effective strategies can be made to control it,” Sharma said.
A senior DPCC official said they have enlisted some recommendations before the team of scientists to tailor-make the technology for Delhi. “We will further improve the system but we can say for sure that this technology will help us monitor pollution sources more effectively,” the official said.