Using Data to Feed Short- and Long-Term Policy Dialogues on Air Quality in India


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


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

Speaker: Sarath Guttikunda

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

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 capabilities and information dissemination platforms are limited and under-developed; they require a complete overhaul, in order to reach the level of transparency and accuracy required for implementing an air quality and health alert system. As we are waiting for the top-down capacity to continue to develop, the trends of the data collected 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, with the number of districts not complying with the national annual ambient standard for PM2.5 increasing from 40% to 60% between 1998 and 2014. The comparisons, however, are not justified because there is a lack of reliable (and sufficient) monitoring data from cities other than Delhi –there could be cities in India whose situation is as bad as Delhi’s that we do not know of yet. We urgently need to disseminate air quality information in some form now, so as to check the pollution loads in regions with limited to no monitoring.

We built two public portals and, to support air quality information collation and dissemination in 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 the U.S., E.U., and some Asian cities. The program utilizes 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 disseminates 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.