IIT Kanpur to install 1400 sensors to size the air pollution levels in rural parts of UP & Bihar

IIT Kanpur to install 1400 sensors to size the air pollution levels in rural parts of UP & Bihar

The three-year pilot project could pave way for a national network of air quality sensors in rural India

IIT Kanpur yet again comes up with a novel idea aimed at tackling the rising air pollution levels in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In an attempt to do so, over 1400 low-cost sensors will be installed in the rural areas at an estimated cost of ₹19 crores. Reportedly, this will be a three-year pilot project that will pave way for a national network of air quality sensors in rural India.

Increasing levels of air pollution in rural India

Air pollution is generally considered a concern of the cities and by the cities. Urban areas, because of their population density and industrial establishments, continue to be the overwhelming source of emissions. However, air quality in rural areas is no better than an average quality urban area. Causes of air pollution, such as biomass burning and dependence on diesel gen-sets for electricity are worsening air quality in villages too.

Over time, various initiatives have been taken to monitor and better the air quality of urban areas, however, initiatives to alleviate poor air remain negligible in rural areas.

The National Clean Air Program (NCAP), was the first pan-India initiative that aimed at improving India’s air quality. The program advised various comprehensive time-bound initiatives for urban as well as rural areas. As per the targets under NCAP, it is important to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated time frame.

Considering IIT-Kanpur's initiative, as the first step towards ensuring India's air quality standards, the outcomes from this network will help local communities, policymakers and researchers understand the real-time on-ground situation.

Challenges faced in ensuring better air quality

In 2019, the government launched the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) to reduce particulate matter by 20-30% by 2024 with 2017 as the base year for comparison. This however is primarily aimed at 122 cities that have been categorised as India’s most polluted cities.

And despite having several cities on the world’s list of the most polluted cities in the world, India still has very few sensors relative to the size of its population due to which the enormity of the air pollution crisis is obscured in towns and villages.

Other initiatives related to clean air:

  • Under NCAP, ₹375.44 crores were provided to 114 cities from 2018-19 to 2020-21 and ₹290 crores was allocated to 82 cities for the financial year 2021-22.

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is a statutory organization under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Mo.E.F.C). It is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

  • National Air Quality Index (AQI) was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells how clean or polluted the air is. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.

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