Feeding Short and Long Term Policy Dialogues (with data) on Air Quality in India


Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 3:30pm to 4:45pm


Pierce 100F, 29 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA

Sarath GUTTIKUNDA, Founder/Director, UrbanEmissions.Info; Affiliate Associate Research Professor, Desert Research Institute

Sponsored by China Project, Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences


Abstract: Traditionally, air quality management is based on a “top-down approach” with data coming from a wide network of reliable, representative, and continuous monitoring stations. In India, continuous monitoring activities and information dissemination platforms are limited and under development, and needs a complete overhaul, in order to reach the level of transparency and accuracy required for implementing an air quality and health alert system. Even while we are waiting for the top-down capacity to develop, the monitoring data trends present a deteriorating picture of air quality and public health. For example, recent comparative studies have highlighted Delhi as the city with the worst air quality in the world and the number of districts not complying with the national annual ambient standard for PM2.5 went up from 40% to 60% between 1998 and 2014. The comparisons are not justified because of the lack reliable (and enough) monitoring data from cities other than Delhi – which means there are cities in India, which could be as bad as Delhi and yet we do not know. This translates to an urgent need to disseminate air quality information in some form, now, so as to check of the pollution loads in regions with limited or no monitoring.

We built two public portals http://www.indiaairquality.info and http://www.delhiairquality.info, to support air quality information collation and dissemination for India and Delhi, using a “bottom-up” approach; with forward linkages to data coming from the monitoring stations to validate, calibrate, and authenticate, as much as possible. The modeling concept is not new in this field. Similar systems are in place in US, EU, and some Asian cities. The program is now utilizing the state of the art meteorology and dispersion modeling platforms, with improved and dynamic emission feeds (estimated based on local surveys, measurements, and satellite feeds, as and when the data is available), and disseminating air quality forecasts for the next 3 days, at the district level in India and at 1 km resolution for Delhi, including hour-by-hour and day-by-day assessment of likely source contributions.

This presentation will focus on delivering an overview of these public portals, data feeds, and policy linkages for short and long term air quality management planning for Indian cities.