Which is the worst Indian government department

How community-based air quality monitoring in the city of Bengaluru is helping fight air pollution:
India's air pollution challenges

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This article originally appeared on the Clarity Movement website.

With a population of nearly 1.36 billion, India is taking bold steps towards a low-carbon future. Reducing urban emissions is a priority area of ​​Indian environmental policies and programs. During the nation's address on India's 74th Independence Day earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a special campaign under the National Clean Air Program (NCAP), which is a holistic approach to reducing air pollution in 100 cities across the country.

According to the World Bank (2019) 34.47% of India's population live in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to grow by 1.47% over the next decade. This means that by 2031 around 50% of the Indian population will be living in cities.

Unfortunately, India is one of the most polluted countries in the world, and Indian cities are among the countries with the worst air quality in the world. Air pollution is one of the greatest health risks in India and a significant public health burden. 650 million people across the country live in areas where air pollution exceeds the guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.

According to Luft, the average Indian citizen loses 5.2 years of his or her life to air pollution, according to the latest study by the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC), with city dwellers being particularly exposed to poor air quality. The study found that nearly 480 million people, or 40% of the Indian population, live in the Indo-Gangetic belt. This area, which also includes the state capital Delhi, is known for its unhealthy air pollution.

The WHO guidelines for fine dust It is currently recommended that the PM2.5 annual mean values ​​do not exceed 10 μg / m3. Delhi residents could see life expectancy extended by up to 9.4 years if air quality were improved to meet these guidelines. Even meeting the milder Indian National Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 40 μg / μg / m3 is expected to add up to 6.5 years to the average life expectancy of Delhi residents.

Known as the Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, where population growth and economic development are driving rapid urbanization. Growing energy and water consumption, the generation of waste and the need for transport are all straining the region's natural resources. According to the same study, Bengaluru residents are expected to lose around 3 to 4 years of their lifespan due to air pollution.

Air quality levels in Bengaluru have been deteriorating rapidly in recent years, and the main culprit is the city's transport policies. Although the city has a good bus and suburban train network, public transport has not been able to meet the growing demand, leading to a boom in the use of private vehicles. The increasing use of cars, motorcycles and scooters has resulted in a significant increase in fossil fuel consumption.

Other factors contributing to air pollution in Bengaluru include industrial processes, dusty road conditions, waste incineration and the use of diesel generators. However, the transportation sector is widely recognized as the agency most to blame for poor air quality in the city.

Rising levels of air pollution have a negative impact on health and quality of life and pose enormous challenges for Bengaluru. The first step in finding solutions to these challenges is to understand how air quality differs in different areas of the city. In this city of over 11 million people there are only 10 official reference stations for monitoring ambient air quality that are connected to CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board). According to the latest CREA study, the data from this network do not provide a detailed picture of the air quality in the city.

Installation and provision of Clarity Node-S for measuring air quality in Bengaluru



Use of air quality monitors in schools and hospitals in Bengaluru

To improve the understanding of the nature of air quality in Bengaluru, the Global Climate Health Alliance 40 installed indicative air quality monitors across the city with Clarity 2019. The network was deployed in strategic locations frequented by vulnerable populations, with a focus on schools and hospitals.

Since deploying in 2019, the Clarity Air Quality Monitoring Network has enabled community members in the city of Bengaluru to better understand the nature of the air quality in their city. Access to more detailed data has the level of awareness of standards related to air quality levels (such as WHO is and India's national standards).

For the first time, the Bengaluru community has access to a reliable real-time data network that enables visibility of air quality trends at the neighborhood level. As a co-campaign design strategist for this advocacy project, I was responsible for deploying Clarity Nodes in the various neighborhoods.

The heart of the Clarity solution is the Clarity node. Each device contains nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) sensors in a small, weatherproof cover and can be deployed in less than 5 minutes. Each node uploads data to the Clarity Cloud in real time, with remote calibration applying region-specific algorithms to ensure data quality. Users can access real-time air quality data remotely via the API or by logging into the Clarity Dashboard, a secure web portal with data visualization and download tool.

"As someone without a technical background, working with the Clarity Nodes was a pleasure - they are super easy to use, activate immediately and output data in a very short time."

- Ritwajit Das, Chief Strategist for South Asia’s Global Call for Climate Action

The devices are robust and well suited for the hot, humid and dusty conditions in Bengaluru. Another unique feature of the Clarity monitors is the native solar panel, with which the monitors are self-sufficient and can work independently of the power grid. Thanks to the prepaid, natively integrated cellular connection, each device can establish a reliable connection to the nearest possible cellular network. The back-end architecture of the Clarity Cloud is one of the best API platforms in the world. The instructions and manuals supplied with the devices have been carefully prepared so that anyone with a little knowledge of computers and the Internet can easily activate, manage and operate Clarity Nodes.

Air quality leadership in the communityThere is part of the ...

The Clarity Network has done something simple yet transforming for the community in Bengaluru. With better access to air quality data, community members ask better questions and band together to pressure the government to develop better strategies and programs to address poor urban air quality.

One such community group is Varthur Rising, a citizens' forum that offers a platform for change makers. Jagadish Reddy Nagappa leads this group and also hosts one of the Clarity Nodes.

Our neighborhood is undergoing significant development and high-rise buildings are being built around Lake Varthur. Due to the new construction, we have lost most of our tree cover and have seen an increase in ailments caused by air pollution. With the timely help and guidance from the Clarity team, we were able to create awareness and mobilize the community for the topic of air quality. Thanks to this commitment from the community, we were able to urge the government to include environmental aspects in their urban development process. We expect the city air of Bengaluru to become breathable again without any pollutants. Most importantly, people are now aware of the issues related to air quality and can work to improve the environment. We are grateful to the Clarity team for this. "

- Jagadish Reddy Nagappa, Varthur Rising

The network empowers local women to take the lead in promoting environmental sustainability in Bengaluru. Ms. Meera of the Springfield area and Ms. Varsha Kej of the Indiranagar area are growing up as women leaders in their community and as leading advocates for clean air. As they point out, the lack of integrated planning between different government departments has resulted in a biased approach to air quality management. In the past, the plan and its objectives have been limited to installing air quality monitors with no real plan for using this data to protect public health.

Varsha Kej, host of a Clarity Node in her residence by Indira Nagar

It is important to highlight the gaps in air quality policy and the need to better implement plans to track and reduce air pollution. For example, our Springfield location is badly affected by vehicle pollution, but in the past we haven't been able to prove this as we didn't have access to local air quality data. The data from the Clarity Nodes enabled us to report government inaction to reduce traffic emissions by youth, especially mornings and evenings when they go to school and play outdoors. "

Clement Jayakumar with a Clarity Node in his home in Doddanekundi

- Ms. Meera Nair, resident of Springfield Society, Bangalore

The Clarity Network closes this gap by putting data in the hands of the citizens. The city's residents take control of air pollution management themselves, as groups like WhiteField Rising show. Using air quality data from the Clarity network as evidence, this progressive community group filed cases against a polluting graphite plant with the Supreme Court. Through these efforts, they have taken steps to combat air pollution and have prompted local authorities to use sweepers to reduce road dust.

Clarity's low-cost air quality meters have had a huge impact by providing the community with more information about the status of the air in their immediate area. The ability to easily share air quality information helps protect the most vulnerable groups such as children, women and the elderly. With the data provided by the Clarity nodes, we were able to develop high-resolution, localized maps, an essential tool for the strategic improvement of air quality.

"What is measured is done!"

- Clement Jayakumar, Appointed Corporator at BBMP (Bangalore Municipal Corporation)

As the saying goes, "what is measured is done". Once we implemented this community air quality monitoring initiative, residents in the neighborhood pushed government stakeholders to change.

As a resident of Bengaluru over 18 years old, I am also a community champion for the project and host a Clarity device. My work as a Changemaker and Nominee Corporator at BBMP (the Bengaluru City Council) has included promoting eco-friendly practices in the Doddanekundi neighborhood (fun fact - I have over 100 varieties of air-purifying plants in my home and garden!). As an air quality advocate, I worked to ensure that the Clarity Network had the greatest possible impact.

The author Ritwajit Das accepts the Youth Professional Award 2020 from IHS Alumni International for excellence and leadership in urban management and urban development at the 10th session of the World Urban Forum.

Involving the health sector in improving air quality

In order to move air quality policy forward, we felt it was important to position air pollution as a health threat rather than a technological problem. That is why we have involved health experts in the project whenever possible.

One such project manager is Dr. Sudarshan, chief pediatrician and director of the Bengaluru Municipal Corporation (BBMP), the administrative agency responsible for the urban facilities and infrastructure of the greater Bangalore area. Dr. Sudarshan oversees the public health services and city medical centers under the BBMP and wanted the Clarity devices in various government hospital buildings across the city.

Access to reliable air quality data is very important in addressing public health issues. Air pollution poses a massive health risk to the people of Bengaluru and will only get worse if not tackled strategically. Data coming from the Clarity Nodes will sensitize doctors and medical systems to this problem. We installed the nodes in government hospitals so that doctors and administrators who work in these urban medical centers would be aware of the air quality issues in their hospitals. "

- Dr. Sudarshana BY, Senior Pediatrician, BBMP (Bangalore Municipal Corporation)


The involvement of health care executives in the project helps determine that this poor air quality can lead to a massive public health crisis. This approach sets an important precedent for the discourse on how air pollution is viewed in Indian cities and encourages urban health centers and hospitals to establish procedures and best practices that are specific to air quality.

Most of the hospital buildings selected to host the Clarity Nodes are maternity wards. The maternity wards are specialized urban medical centers for mothers and children up to 7 years of age. Children and mothers have been identified as some of the groups most prone to poor air quality. It was therefore particularly important to track and identify sources of pollution in order to quantify and reduce personal exposure and better predict pollution events in the vicinity of these facilities.

Doctor using a Clarity Node to measure air pollution in a BBMP maternity ward

“Data on the levels and health effects of air pollution will help policymakers and guide them to appropriate long-term action to address these public health challenges. There needs to be better air quality monitoring infrastructure in Bengaluru. "

- Dr. Prashant Thankachan, St. John's Research Institute

Better air quality data enables the city of Bengaluru to take action against air pollution

The visibility of air quality through the Clarity network has enabled the community to work with local government to assess the effectiveness of air pollution policies and design targeted interventions. Community members are constantly thinking about how they can use the data from our Clarity network for measures to improve air quality, e.g. B. to identify sources of pollution, to predict pollution events and to trace sources of pollution.

Clarity Node-S was installed and deployed at Bengaluru Municipal Corporation

This project has enabled me to work closely with some members of the Bengaluru community who now see the opportunity to build a future with clean air and urban sustainability at its heart. The community now has a better understanding of air sensor technologies, IoT devices, and data analytics, which has inspired them to think about actionable solutions to improve air quality.

Working with Clarity to implement better air quality monitoring infrastructure has truly revolutionized the way Bangalore thinks and acts on air pollution issues. Drawing on data from the network, local champions and community groups are campaigning for better air quality and pressuring the government to prioritize air pollution as one of the greatest threats to urban quality of life and general public health.


About the author:

Ritwajit Das, Chief Strategist South Asia Global Call for Climate Action

Ritwajit works on climate change and sustainable urban development issues around the world with a strong focus on advocacy management, communication management, strategy, program development, project management, monitoring and multidimensional research. He has worked on a number of climate projects in 23 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.

Winner of Youth Professional Award 2020 from IHS Alumni International for Excellence and Leadership in Urban Management and Development at the 10th session of the World Urban Forum of UN Habitat in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In 2019 he received the Dr. ABJ Abdul Kalam Sadhvana Prize for Climate Change, Sustainable Development Goals and Urban Sustainability.