Thursday, May 20, 2010

LCD Boards to Flash Air Quality Data across the Capital from July

Delhiites can now literally know the air they breathe. Come July and LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) boards across the capital will flash hourly data about air quality. These will also give a forecast 24 hours in advance.

Scientists from the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) have prepared an emissions inventory for the Commonwealth Games. It will prove crucial in managing air quality during the Oct 3-14 event.

The inventory has been prepared using data - number of vehicles, industries, shanties, hotels and restaurants and other sources - collected from near Games venues and the Games Village after a two-month long exercise.

About 250 students from various colleges in Delhi participated in the exercise between February and March. Students, equipped with Click Counters, were positioned at 106 traffic junctions around the venues during the period.

"For air quality management, we need to know the number of vehicles that use the roads around the Games venues on an average basis daily. We found that at each junction 10,506 vehicles crossed per hour during peak hour while 3,037 vehicles crossed during non-peak hours," Gufran Beig, a scientist with IITM's System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), told IANS.

Scientists have also collected emissions data from 70 slum clusters, 881 hotels and restaurants, 5,000 industries and other sources around the Games venue.
The data will act as a baseline emissions inventory for air quality management model SMOKE (Sparse Matrix Operator Kernel Emission).

It is a computer model where data like vehicle numbers, wind speed and humidity will be keyed in and the information will forecast the pollution level 24 hours in advance. The real-time data will help predict air quality 95 percent accurately.

Explaining how the generated data will come handy for air quality forecasting, Beig said: "If on a particular day it is found that pollution level is high, we will recommend to the Delhi government to shut some industries or divert traffic near the venues."

The IITM will put up 16 outdoor LCD boards and six indoor display boards across the capital. There will be different color codes for the level of pollutants - oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, black carbon and benzene - in the air.
"At a specific time if the level of particulate matter or black carbon in the air is high, the display board will show red and if it's normal it will show green. By seeing the color codes people will easily come to know about the air quality," Beig said.

SAFAR will provide information on air quality within a four-kilometer radius at 11 places around Games venues on an hourly basis.

Some athletes have hinted at skipping the Games as they fear that Delhi's air is unsafe to breathe. But the Games organizing committee says it is committed to ensuring clean air as the event have been dubbed the first-ever Green Games.

The organizers are confident that the existing traffic density can be reduced drastically by providing quality public transport by way of more Metro lines and green buses.

The Indian capital is among the most polluted cities in the world and the ever-growing number of cars, and three- and two-wheelers occupy a staggering 75 percent of road space, although only 20 percent of the commuting public uses them.

Delhi has over five million vehicles and another four million come to the metropolis from towns in adjoining states in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Games organizers are keeping their fingers crossed hoping the scientific methods to improve the quality of air in the capital will succeed.