NEW DELHI: The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), one of the country’s premier research and development units, is developing India’s own certification facility for air pollution monitoring equipment. The move could boost the ‘Make in India’ initiative as NPL expects demand for such equipment to soar as part of the centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
At least 40,000 such machines are being used by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and other government agencies, as well as private companies, to monitor air pollution levels, including both ambient and source-based emissions.
The Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS), which was introduced in India in 2014, is used to measure source-based emissions from 17 categories of grossly polluting industries in real time. These industries are required by the government to submit real time data to the CPCB, which then evaluates whether a company is complying with regulatory norms.
However, the accuracy of this data has been a concern, as many of these instruments suffer from issues of calibration and certification.
“How do we know whether the data being reported is accurate or not? Most of it is generated by equipment that has been manufactured abroad and certified by international agencies, in the US and Europe under environmental conditions that do not conform to Indian weather," said Dr C. Sharma, senior principal scientist at NPL.
High humidity levels, dusty weather and temperature variations in India could impact their long-term functioning. Unlike in the US and in Europe, where most certification agencies are located, India is a tropical country and there are huge temperature variations.
“If we have confidence about our data, we will be able to suggest mitigation options. At present, we do not know how accurate it is," said Dr K. Aswal, director, NPL.
This led the government to designate NPL as the certification agency for air pollution monitoring equipment. The project awarded by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change would be executed over two years with a proposed budget outlay of nearly ₹59 crore.
Certification of PM2.5 and PM10 volume samplers has already been established at NPL. This would now be extended to CEMS.
As the demand for the equipment increases over time and industries need to compulsorily install them in their chimneys, the local certification would not only help bring down costs, but also improve the measurement of air pollution and help scrutinize it.
The project would help Indian industries to manufacture the equipment in the country and get local certification, instead procuring them from outside.
“As we do not have a certification scheme for the equipment in India, the market is dependent on products manufactured abroad. So, there has been constant demand from the industry to have our own certification process, so that time and cost is reduced. It will help the industry to develop products in the country itself and ensure competitive pricing," said Dr Sharma.
The biggest advantage would be the confidence that the data is accurate.
Government or private agencies that want to get calibration and certification done for these equipment can do so from NPL. The process is not yet mandatory, but could be made a regulatory requirement to ensure compliance by private industries.