Home / Politics / Policy /  Govt launches mobile app to check your city’s air quality

New Delhi: Citizens of Delhi, the city with the world’s most toxic air, and Pune can now check for air quality in real time and get forecasts for the next day through a mobile app launched by the ministry of earth sciences in Pune on Tuesday.

The service, likely to be available in Mumbai by April, will be run by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), which has air quality monitoring systems in Delhi and Pune.

The mobile app, SAFAR-Air, will provide current data and a forecast for air quality in the user’s current location through a colour-coded system—green is good, yellow is moderately polluted, orange is poor, red is very poor and maroon is critical.

For instance, in East Delhi, air quality on Tuesday showed particulate matter of 350 mg per m3, for which the health advisory on the app says it is advisable to wear pollution masks and avoid outdoor activity. Users can also share the information from the app on Twitter, Facebook, and by email.

The air quality information and advisories for Delhi will be available for five regions—west, east, north, south and central—based on data from 10 monitoring stations, for eight parameters. The forecasting model is run on a supercomputer in IITM called Aditya. Data from at least two monitoring stations is used for providing information for each region.

“The process is on to start this app for Mumbai by April or May, and by 2017 we hope to extend our forecasting services to Chennai and Kolkata," said Gufran Beig, project director of SAFAR. “The colour coding and the advisories are designed to make information understandable for the general public."

Particulate matter (PM), which can include sulfates, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water, are considered the most dangerous air pollutants. These can settle deep inside the lungs, making people vulnerable to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer.

Equally, ozone in the air is a major factor in asthma morbidity and mortality, while nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide also can play a role in the onset of asthma, bronchial symptoms, lung inflammation and reduced lung function.

In 2014, a World Health Organization (WHO) study in May and a Yale University study in February found the air in New Delhi to be the world’s most polluted.

According to SAFAR, this year, the average annual air pollution between November and January was the highest since 2010, when the ministry started monitoring air pollution in Delhi. On an annual average over the five years, PM 2.5 pollution was around 100, while this year it was 114, as compared to 101 in 2013 and 98 in 2012.

“There were two reasons for this: This winter, the number of days with the lowest recorded temperatures were more than any of these years, and the emissions from the transport sector have also consistently increased in the last five years," Beig added. He said that when temperatures are very low, the boundary layer of the atmosphere becomes lower and particulate matter mixes with fog or water droplets which lead to the multiplying of aerosols, which are pollutants.

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