Science

India, UK scientists working on a smog prediction model for Delhi

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on November 12, 2019 Published on November 12, 2019

This photo taken on November 1 shows a smog-covered Rajpath in New Delhi   -  Sushil Kumar Verma

Scientists from India and the UK are working on a project that will enable better understanding of air pollution in Delhi, particularly during winter months when thick haze caused by suspended particulate matter envelopes the sky over the capital, said John Loughhead, Chief Scientific Adviser with the UK government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“Under the Newton-Bhabha scheme, there are interactions between researchers from both the countries on looking holistically at the causes of air pollution, particularly particulate matter concentration in the Delhi air.

The Indian Institute of technology (IIT) Delhi and a couple of UK universities, including Birmingham, are working together to understand this better,” Loughhead, who was here recently, told BusinessLine.

Every winter, particularly post-Diwali, the air in Delhi turns foul, making it difficult for people, particularly the children, elderly and those suffering respiratory ailments, to breathe. There have been a number of initiatives mainly at the behest of the Supreme Court to improve air quality in the capital and surrounding regions. Banning highly-polluting fire crackers during Diwali, banning crop residue burning and introducing even-odd rule on private cars are some of the steps taken to redeem the situation in the capital.

Need reliable data

According to Loughhead, one of the things the researchers realised was that there was no reliable evidence about the conditions around which people in Delhi experience the air quality problem. So, they started the process of measurements and linked them to analytical work that led to insights into the problem. “These insights are being used for developing a predictive model that would give them a better means of predicting the circumstances that lead to challenging air quality conditions,” said Loughhead. But when the model would be ready for taking real decisions is not yet clear right though they are already conducting trials, he added.

Source and share

The scientists are also trying to figure how much of the particulate matter is generated locally by vehicular and industrial pollution as well as how much is contributed by stubble-burning and excess use of fertilisers in States such as Punjab, Haryana and western parts of Uttar Pradesh. According to Loughhead, ascertaining the source and how much it is contributing is not that simple. “You got generation of the sources and then got atmospheric aerosol reactions that create new ones (what are called secondary particulate matter),” he said.

What the scientists are doing at the moment is taking the meteorological conditions as defined input. This is then used for modelling particle transport and reactions. The researchers at the University of Birmingham have developed specialised equipment for analysing the data. Right now, together with the IIT-Delhi counterparts they are doing the same in Delhi. Over the next one and a half years, the researchers will have better analytical tools and data to help policymakers to come up with better solutions to address air pollution in the capital, he said.

Published on November 12, 2019
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