25 August 2023
In a first of its kind initiative, an air quality monitoring van will be deployed in Punjab to not only monitor air pollution levels but also create mass awareness among citizens to understand the type of air they are breathing.
Announcing it on the sidelines of India Clean Air Summit (ICAS) 2023 in Bengaluru, Prof. Dr. Adarsh Pal Vig, Chairman, Punjab State Pollution Control Board (PSPCB), said that it was important for people to understand the air they were breathing. The van will be operated by a local industry under the corporate environment responsibility (CER) under the direction of the PPCB.
The journey of the air quality monitoring van will start from Khadoor Sahib in Tarn Taran district in Majha region near Amritsar that already has a forested patch created by Baba Sewa Singh, a social worker and environmentalist. The air quality of this place will be recorded and then the van will move to other cities across Punjab comparing the air quality levels of different locations, and explaining to the citizens the air they are breathing. The aim is to identify steps that can be taken to improve the quality of air locally.
“The van will also be used during the stubble burning season at sites where there is deteriorating air quality due to stubble burning compared to those areas that are free from it. It will measure the air quality and explain to people the polluted air they are breathing. In other words, the van will not only capture data but also be a mobile sensitisation vehicle for citizens across the state. It will explain to the people the ill effects of air pollution and tell them of ways to improve air quality,” Dr. Vig added.
By sharing the data captured by the van, people will be empowered to improve the air they breathe due to their own actions – an initiative towards citizen science. As clean air is key to good health, better monitoring is essential to mitigate the burgeoning crisis. “We will also be able to compare the air quality of different regions within Punjab using this mobile van, which will help us assess air quality abatement measures for each region based on this variability,” Dr Vig said.
“Clean air is a win-win for health and climate but needs to be done with evidence-based strategies and research with local knowledge,” said Prof. Vinayak Sinha, Professor, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Mohali (IISER) during ICAS 2023, while adding that gas phase air quality research is way behind in India and it needs better-monitoring data of volatile compounds. Emission factors measured elsewhere and global emission inventories do not adequately capture regional emissions.
“Agricultural burning is an episodic and important player in peak pollution episodes but reducing open burning of all kinds that occurs year around for waste disposal, as open biofuel combustion for cooking and heating in winter can help us gain maximum benefits for improved air quality as they have disproportionate influence,” added Prof. Sinha.