Mumbai to get country’s largest air quality monitoring network

By, Mumbai
Feb 10, 2020 12:05 AM IST

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently approved the development of an air quality monitoring network of 90 stations in the city, which will make it the largest such network in India.

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The project is expected to be completed over the next five years and will be funded by the BMC and private organisations. At 9.5 crore, 80 real-time air monitoring stationary stations will give location-wise updates, while 10 mobile sensors (in Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport buses) will provide representative air quality sampling across the city.

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Following the deployment of this network, the city will overtake Delhi’s network of 38 air quality monitors, the largest in India at present, said civic chief Praveen Pardeshi, adding that the focus would be to check hyperlocal sources and help develop measures

to reduce air-pollution exposure.

“The proposal is approved and details of the project in terms of locations where monitors will be deployed are being finalised. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is expected to be signed soon,” said Pardeshi.

“Being the largest air monitoring network, it will be able to provide detailed information to citizens about what they are breathing, identify hotspots, and help assess immediate solutions,” he added.

Mumbai’s current network has 30 air quality monitoring stations.

There are 15 stations under the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), 10 under the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), and five under BMC.

The new project is led by non-government organisation Conservation Action Trust (CAT) and is partnered by pan-India air pollution research groups Respirer Living Sciences Pvt. Ltd. (UrbanSciences) and Urban Emissions. The project was conceived after various non-government stakeholders met the civic chief in August last year to discuss air pollution challenges in the financial capital.

Mumbai witnessed an 80% surge in particulate matter concentration from 2007 to 2018. PM10 (solid and liquid particles less than 10 microns suspended in the air, predominantly a part of dust, which can cause health ailments) concentration was the highest in 20 years in 2018 at 162 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3), which was almost thrice the national ambient air quality safety standards (60 µg/m3), and eight times the international standards (20 µg/m3) identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The 2019 average has not been published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) yet.

The proposed network will provide hourly and daily concentrations for pollutants like particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, PM10) as well as three-day forecasts. Monitoring of additional gas pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground-level ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) will be introduced into the network in subsequent stages. The information will be provided in the form of graphs and maps, according to the proposal.

“Monitors will be set up every 4 sq. km covering the entire city. For sensors mounted on buses, north-south, east-west and circular routes will be chosen to ensure statistical validity of data,” said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, CAT. “Through fast data dissemination it will be easier for enforcement authorities to act on local sources.”

Low-cost sensors are currently being developed by UrbanSciences. “A key feature of this network will include data for citizens and researchers at the neighbourhood-level, which can help draft health advisories. Policy researchers will be able to work on long-term air quality trends. It will be made available online and can be accessed by anyone,” said Ronak Sutaria, founder and director, UrbanSciences. “Findings from this network will help build a model for open-data-driven governance, which can be replicated across other cities.”

The forecasting system will use data from monitoring and modelling platforms to develop air pollution concentration having a spatial resolution of one km and a temporal resolution of one hour. It will also include information on weather. “Over the course of the programme, data will help prepare the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) structure – guiding principle for air pollution management, long-term planning, and evaluate the action plans for the city,” said Sarath Guttikunda, director of Urban Emissions.

Megacities like Beijing and London managed to address the air pollution issue by using dense networks to the tune of more than 1,000 sensors and 500 sensors respectively, member of the Centre’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP) apex committee and professor, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, SN Tripathi said. “The current monitoring network for Mumbai is not sufficient. To understand impact of exposure to citizens, air monitoring at the neighbourhood level is crucial. In that sense, this is a positive step. Having the entire city’s network, including MPCB, SAFAR, and BMC (with close to 120 sensors), within one platform will serve a larger synergistic effect to combat air pollution as a valuable asset. This is the need of the hour,” said Tripathi.


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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