Monday, 30th October 2017

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Early air quality warning launched in Delhi

System to caution public in advance about pollution in NCR

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 16.10.18, 1:49 AM
  • Updated 16.10.18, 1:49 AM
  • 2 mins read
A commuter walks amid air pollution in New Delhi. File picture

The Union earth sciences ministry on Monday launched an air quality early warning system to caution the public in the National Capital Region about impending pollution up to three days in advance.

The early warning system will track nearby and distant sources of air pollution and use weather data to generate forecasts for concentrations of tiny particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide, and oxides of nitrogen over the NCR up to 72 hours in advance.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD), New Delhi, and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, will collect pollution source data from European, American and Japanese satellites and use a forecasting model from Finland to issue air quality forecasts for the NCR.

“We’re starting with Delhi and NCR — but this could be extended, if needed, to other cities or regions in the future,” said Madhavan Rajeevan, a senior weather scientist and earth sciences secretary.

The Central Pollution Control Board, a division of the Union environment ministry, will for now receive the early warning system forecasts and be responsible for disseminating them to the public, officials said.

Global assessments of air pollution have consistently pointed to Delhi as among the worst polluted cities. The World Health Organisation’s 2018 air quality database had listed 14 cities from India among the top 15 polluted cities — measured through PM sized 2.5 microns. Delhi was sixth on the list, preceded by Kanpur at the top, then Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya and Patna.

An inventory of the sources of air pollution over NCR prepared by the IITM has suggested that dust from desert regions and crop stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab are significant sources of wind blown PM2.5 over NCR.

“The early warning system will use dust monitoring data from European and Japanese satellites and will use a Nasa satellite to detect fire (stubble) burning for the air quality forecasts,” said IMD director-general K J Ramesh.

Indian weather scientists will borrow an air quality forecasting model developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute and used to predict outcomes of wild forest fires for air quality predictions over the NCR.

The Union earth sciences and environment minister Harsh Vardhan said the early warning system is part of the Centre’s efforts to address challenges of air pollution. “Overall, things are improving,” Vardhan said.

The Centre, Vardhan said, has spent nearly Rs 590 crore in technological solutions to farmers across Haryana and Punjab to curb crop stubble burning, a major source of PM during the months of October and November.

“We’ve had fewer incidents of fire (stubble burning) detections this year compared to last year,” Vardhan said.

“The incidents are about 75 per cent fewer in Punjab and 40 per cent fewer in Haryana.”