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Environment ministry setting up expert group to look at air pollution warning system

The ministry is gearing up for a spike in air pollution levels during winters that impacts Delhi-NCR and the northern plains.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2018 23:33 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Air pollution,environment ministry,air pollution warning system
The environment ministry is gearing up for a spike in air pollution levels during winters that impacts Delhi-NCR and northern plains.(AP File Photo)

The environment ministry will be setting up an expert group to provide recommendations about an early warning system for air pollution, an official said. A meeting in this regard was held on Monday where measures to develop a protocol for dissemination of air pollution information was also discussed.

This June, the national capital experienced an unexpected drop in air quality with the incursion of dust-carrying winds from across Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. The strong winds also stirred up dust already present in Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region) and kept pollution levels in severe category for three days.

The ministry of earth sciences through its SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) programme does provide air quality forecasts for four cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad.

The system, however, is far from perfect. “They have an early warning system, but it has to be integrated with the satellite data,” Ritesh Kumar Singh, joint secretary at the environment ministry, said.

“We want a system where the warning is available a couple of days in advance. When the episode occurred a few days ago, SAFAR ran a model on the first day of the episode and they said that it would subside in three days, and it did. What they were not able to do was give us a warning a few days in advance” the ministry official said.

SAFAR’s programme director Gufran Beig said, “We will be strengthening forecasting in four cities, we are updating the emission inventory and relying on satellite data.”

The ministry, through the Central Pollution Control Board, the apex pollution regulator, has already started work on using satellite data from Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to estimate ground-level PM 2.5 concentrations (particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or less in diameter), as reported by HT.

The ministry is gearing up for a spike in air pollution levels during winters that impacts Delhi-NCR and the northern plains. In November 2017, barring three days, air quality in Delhi-NCR was in the “very poor” or “severe” categories throughout.

To tackle winter pollution, the department of science and technology (DST) within the ministry of science and technology is assessing technological solutions so that pilots can be launched in the coming three months.

The meeting, chaired by environment secretary CK Mishra, had representatives from Isro’s Space Applications Centre, DST, IIT Delhi, IIT Mumbai, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, and Indian Meteorological Department.

First Published: Jun 25, 2018 23:30 IST