Schoolkids to help forecast air quality during Games

January 10th, 2010 - 5:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Richa Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 10 (IANS) For 10 days in February, 1,000 children from Delhi government schools will monitor the number of vehicles around Commonwealth Games venues and the data they collect will prove crucial in managing air quality during the Oct 3-14 event.

The Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), which has developed technology for air quality management during the Games, will give the children a gadget called Click Counter to collect this data.

“For air quality management, we need to know the number of vehicles that use the roads around the Games venues on an average basis daily. The data collected by children will help in developing a basic emissions inventory,” Gufran Beig, a scientist with IITM’s System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), told IANS.

Athletes, who have hinted at skipping the 2010 Games fearing unbearable pollution, can now hope to know how safe the air will be during the event.

SAFAR will provide information on air quality in a four-kilometre radius at 10 places around Games venues on an hourly basis and forecast pollution levels 24 hours in advance.

Scientists already have data on the number of vehicles registered with the Delhi Transport Authority.

“The transport authority has provided us the data on vehicles registered with it. This is the primary data. Don’t forget, Delhi has a large floating population and you need an accurate number of vehicles and traffic density during peak and non-peak hours to forecast air quality,” he said.

The children, equipped with Click Counters, will be positioned at main traffic junctions around the venues for 10 days next month.

The device is like a stop watch and costs around Rs.200-300 each. The pocket calculator-sized device will record the number of vehicles passing through an area.

The data will act as a base line emission inventory for air quality management model SMOKE (Sparse Matrix Operator Kernel Emission). It is a computer model where data like vehicle numbers, wind speed and humidity will be keyed in and the information will forecast the pollution level 24 hours in advance.

IITM experts will next week start training students for using the Click Counters. The students will work in four-five hour shifts daily for 12-18 hours.

On the working of Click Counters, Beig said: “Around 70 to 100 students will be positioned near traffic lights and junctions for 10 consecutive days. They just have to activate the Click Counters by pressing a button the moment they see a vehicle passing by. At the end of the day the device will give the total number of vehicles using the roads around the venue.”

The real-time data will help predict air quality 95 percent accurately.

The students will be given certificates of participation in the air quality management drive.

“We will provide transport for the children and also, as a precautionary measure, face masks to protect them from harmful pollutants from vehicular traffic,” he said.

The Games Organising Committee says it is committed to ensuring clean air as the event has been dubbed the first-ever Green Games.

The organisers are confident that the existing traffic density can be reduced drastically by providing quality public transport system by way of more Metro lines and green buses.

The Indian capital is among the most polluted cities in the world and the ever-growing number of cars, three- and two-wheelers occupy a staggering 75 percent of the road space, although only 20 percent of the commuting public use them.

Delhi has over five million vehicles and another one million come to the metropolis from towns in adjoining states in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Games organisers are keeping their fingers crossed hoping the scientific methods to improve the quality of air in the capital succeed.

(Richa Sharma can be contacted at richa.s@ians.in)

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