Experts at the country’s first Air Sensors International Conference (ASIC-India), organised as part of the India Clean Air Summit 2022 (ICAS 2022) on Friday, looked at how low-cost sensor technology could augment India’s critically low air quality monitoring systems.
Inaugurating ASIC-India, Dr Pratima Singh, who leads the Centre for Air Pollution Studies (CAPS) at the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), highlighted the critical shortage of air quality monitoring stations in India, which, in turn, has resulted in a dearth of information on air pollution levels in the country.
“Although the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) recommends four continuous monitoring stations per million population, we are woefully behind in meeting this target. Ideally, India needs at least 4,000 monitors, but has just 969 (as of 2020). Moreover, most of these are located in the Delhi-NCR region; most of north-east, central, and western India have very few monitors, and when they do exist, they tend to be concentrated in urban areas,” Singh added.
Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (CAAQMS) is used for monitoring ambient air quality on a real-time basis. Speaking about low-cost sensors, she said: “Sensors can help us detect air pollution hotspots in different parts of the country. However, to use these effectively, we need to ensure access to information and awareness on the different types of sensors and how to interpret the data. More importantly, the CPCB and the MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) need to form a body of experts to develop processes for certifying sensors, put in place standard operating procedures, and ensure that the data are interpreted and used correctly.”
“Low-cost sensors have helped raise citizens’ interest in air quality. Sensor networks are like weapons. They make data accessible and help us engage with citizens to act against rising air pollution. Moreover, they help communicate science to citizens,” noted Bhavreen Kandhari, co-founder of Warrior Moms, a collective of mothers across India fighting for children’s right to breathe clean air.