Chennai

Here is how they cleared the air

Volunteers appeal to motorists to turn off their engines at traffic intersections. File Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Volunteers appeal to motorists to turn off their engines at traffic intersections. File Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Through a community-led initiative, residents of Whitefield in Bengaluru equip themselves with the technology to monitor air quality and demand remedial action

In any metro, air pollution is bound to be a concern for residents. It’s an evil most residents decide to put up with. Not the residents of Whitefield in Bengaluru. They decided to get involved, up to their noses, and they seem to be doing a good job of tackling the issue.

The locality is known for high levels of air pollution. And its residents have now found a way to equip themselves to track air quality in the locality on a minute-by-minute basis.

Through an air-quality measuring device, developed by two residents of Whitefield as part of a community-led initiative, which had the support of the citizens’ collective Whitefield Rising, residents now monitor PM2.5 (atmospheric particulate matter) and display the information for real-time tracking on https://aircare.mapshalli.org.

It is similar to weather updates.

Shiv Shankar, a technology advisor, and Varun Ramakrishnan, a class XII student, both residents of Whitefield, assembled and launched this sensor device in 2018.

The device costs around ₹6,000 and can be installed by residents at their balcony, apartment complex, street corner or any other location.

Here is how they cleared the air

“We get the data, display them in our map and also analyse the information,” says Shankar, founder of Mapshalli, a web app that hosts the information.

Residents have to install the device at a location with power and wi-fi to know the quality of air that they are breathing.

Currently, a network consisting of 13 devices has been installed by residents at various parts of Whitefield. These devices have been crowd-funded.

The data about air quality helps residents understand what contributes significantly to pollution in a section of the locality. With this information, they approach the civic body, asking it to take action.

“Whitefield has one sensor installed by the government, but that does not have live monitoring. With residents deciding to install such devices, we have been able to empower them to start a conversation with whoever is polluting the air. It could be dumping of construction debris on the road or burning of garbage,” says Shankar.

The biggest victory for the residents has been getting a factory manufacturing graphite electrodes to shut down its operations in the neighbourhood.

“Without the measurements, we could not have rallied so many citizens together. Having these numbers and taking it to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board was a big evidence,” says Zibi Jamal, a member of Whitefield Rising.

The device ranges from the size of a mobile phone to a six-switch extension box.

How to get air quality data for your neighbourhood

Reap Benefit, a social enterprise, has launched a Do-It-Yourself air quality monitor called ‘Breathe’ that features a DHT22 sensor to measure temperature and humidity levels, a Honeywell dust sensor to measure dust particles of PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels. The device can collect and upload data via Internet. For details, visit www.reapbenfit.org.

PurpleAir is another of those community air-monitoring systems. It consists of PM (10, 2.5, 1.0) air pollution sensors. The sensors are easy to install and a power outlet and Wi-fi are all it takes to make use of the device, according to www.purpleair.com, where more details about the device are available.

AQI India(www.aqi.in), a pollution control platform in India, is running the #knowwhatyoubreathe campaign. As part of this, it is providing a pollution monitoring device for your city/ village, free of charge. Also, check its dashboard to know the air quality index at various cities.

Wear a mask and #BeatAirPollution

Have you ever fancied taking a selfie of yourself wearing a mask? Here’s an incentive for you to do so. In keeping with the theme of this year’s World Environment Day which is about air pollution, the United Nations is encouraging residents to post pictures of themselves wearing a mask, on social media. It hopes that this way, a critical mass will be achieved towards propelling initiatives to address air pollution.

The UN wants participants to be extremely creative with their masks. This challenge, on till June 4, essentially imparts some glitter to a larger campaign called #BeatAirPollution. As part of this campaign, UN seeks to get people to commit themselves to one or few actions aimed at protecting the environment. It also enjoins them to take a pledge regarding these actions and encourage others to do the same.

For more details, visit http://bit.ly/MaskChallenge

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 10:08:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/reading-the-air-we-breathe/article27400108.ece

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