An exercise to monitor air quality across busy traffic junctions of Mumbai will begin soon cleared by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Real-time data will be provided on ground level tailpipe emission from vehicles with the air quality monitors mounted on drones. This exercise is being carried out on an experimental basis to determine the concentration of different pollutants close to the surface. Moreover, it is also done to identify the altitude at which vertical dispersion takes place like natural factors such as wind scattering accumulated particles.

air quality in mumbai
The air quality in Mumbai is degrading every year.

“For ambient air quality, we currently have little knowledge about site-specific concentration of pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, etc. and it is difficult to understand the rate of dispersion (to what altitude vertical dispersion takes place). Mumbai has been taken up as the model city, with some busy traffic stretches to understand this,” said Sudhir Srivastava, chairman, MPCB. “This is the best time to do this as the onset of winter is expected soon.”

Three-dimensional profile of a traffic junction

Monitoring will be continuously done at the junctions of Andheri, Bandra, Sion, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, and Haji Ali for over 15 days.  “Researchers use balloons to acquire data to get measurements at a certain height from the ground. In this case, the drone will allow us to take a three-dimensional profile of a traffic junction,” said Srivastava. Further, he also added that the drones will be hired and MPCB is coordinating with the Mumbai police for permissions.

Mitigation measures will be identified under the city’s air pollution action plan after assessing the data. Later on, the exercise will be replicated for point sources such as industrial units and construction/demolition waste. “We stumbled upon this while trying to understand the feasibility of WAYU installed in Mumbai in 2017,” said Srivastava.

The concept is similar to NEERI’s drone app which was launched last month in Nagpur. “Use of drone-mounted sensors to analyze air pollution is increasing globally and it is a cost-effective technology,” said SN Tripathi, professor, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur and member of National Clean Air Programme apex committee.

air quality in mumbai
Pollution monitoring drones to map the air quality in Mumbai.

“We have to see the effectiveness of the calibrated monitors and data accuracy,” said Ronak Sutaria, founder and director, UrbanSciences, an independent air quality monitoring group.