Updated: September 22, 2021 8:52:45 pm
The first official indigenous framework to forecast the quality of air in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad, as mandated under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) plan by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), has been accepted internationally.
Now, India will no longer need to depend on any international air quality forecasting frameworks. “SAFAR’s forecasting model is comparable to the framework by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA),” Dr Gufran Beig, SAFAR’s founder project director, told The Indian Express.
SAFAR chose to demonstrate its forecasting model in four different and contrasting micro-climates of Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad. Officials confirm that this framework can be easily replicated in 132 cities across the country with a population of over 10 lakh.
“The prototype can be scaled up to the remaining 128 non-attainment cities of India as per the commitment to NCAP,” said Beig. Non-attainment cities are those that do not meet the prescribed air quality standards set by the Union environment ministry.
The framework and its findings, developed under the Union Earth Sciences Ministry, meant for citizens, decision makers and researchers, were recently published in the peer-reviewed Environment Modelling and Software of the Elsevier Journal. The research paper, ‘India’s maiden air quality forecasting framework for megacities of divergent environments: The SAFAR-project’, was led by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM-Pune) in association with the India Meteorological Department and Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar.
India has 132 non-attainment/million-plus cities under its NCAP programme, which seeks to achieve a 20 per cent to 30 per cent reduction in Particulate Matter (PM) concentrations by 2024 keeping 2017 as the base year.
Beig said the SAFAR framework is a one-stop solution for air quality management leading up to mitigation, and also helps formulate micro-specific air action plans based on robust science.
“Using this forecasting model, all urban local bodies can also issue timely health advisories publicly to alert citizens on ‘bad air’ days, which will help save vulnerable groups from severe health impact of air pollution,” Beig said.
“The chaotic nature and complexity of air pollution itself makes prediction a challenging task, particularly in a city that is highly influenced by meteorology due to its geographical location, which is considered in this work,” Beig added.
According to a recent report — Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) 2019 — released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of 40 per cent of Indian citizens by more than nine years.
Air pollution inventory for four cities
According to the findings, the annual PM 2.5 generated by all sources was the highest in Delhi (77 gigagrams/year) followed by Ahmedabad (57 Gg/year), Mumbai (45 Gg/year) and Pune (30 Gg/year).
“High population density due to urbanisation is the main reason that directly or indirectly drives up PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad,” said Beig.
Despite having the least annual PM 2.5 level concentration, Pune stood second after Delhi with respect to emissions contributed by the transport sector — the main PM 2.5 contributor.
This has yet again emphasised the need for robust public transport in Pune and improving the overall transport facilities here. Considering its population — both of people and vehicles, the transport sector of Delhi contributed only 41 per cent towards the national capital’s pollution. At least 40 per cent of Pune’s pollution came from the transport sector.
In Mumbai, uncontrolled combustion within the highly dense slum population was driving the PM 2.5, SAFAR noted. At 15.5 per cent, the biofuel combustion contribution was the highest in Mumbai and in Pune it was 11.4 per cent, in Ahmedabad 10.2 per cent and Delhi 3 per cent.
Industries contributed the highest towards air pollution in both Mumbai and Pune, which stood at 31.1 per cent and 21.6 per cent respectively in comparison to Ahmedabad (18.8 per cent) and Delhi (18.6 per cent).
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