Spotlight: Dr. Arindam Roy

Dr. Arindam Roy has worked on air pollution and climate change for more than seven years. He has worked on a range of projects and has collaborated with International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI), GIZ, IUCN etc. Currently, he is working at EPFL as a as scientist in Laboratory of atmospheric processes and their impacts (LAPI) group. Current research interest includes air pollution and economy, air quality adaptation, practical solutions in low- and middle-income countries. He has a PhD from University of Calcutta/Bose Institute. More about him here.

Here is a short Q&A with him:

Can you tell us about your current project with low-cost sensors in India?

I have recently joined École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne as scientist and here I will be working with multiple institute on measurement, recommendation and implementation of air quality management over Indian cities. For the last two years, I have worked for a leading CSO in eastern India and implement multiple projects on topics such as climate resilient livelihoods, crop residue management, waste to energy, conservation friendly agriculture and aquaculture etc. One of our major projects was to use low cost sensors in different micro-environments in Kolkata, India and Dhaka, Bangladesh. For that reason, we assembled and calibrated low-cost air quality sensors into portable modules and deployed them in different parts of the city. We also conducted sampling in indoor cooking environments in slums and lower income households.

How did you get involved with work on air quality?

It began during my PhD when I started working on aerosol and air pollutants over pristine atmospheres in eastern India. Between Darjeeling and the Sundarbans, I did extensive sampling and analysis and spent long periods of time in these places. Post-PhD, I started working in urban slums and it was here that I was introduced to the human aspect of air pollution. I began to understand that mitigation is a long term process and it will not happen in a day. On the other hand, the adaptation process can start right away and informed decision making and decision support tools are important. There are 20 apps providing you air quality information all day, but does the vulnerable population have access to this type kind of information? You can’t simply tell a shop owner in the main road to shift or a slum dweller not to cook using plastics or thermocol because he/she is inhaling bad air. The proper understanding of economy-air quality pay-off is extremely important as this could hold the key to design practical solutions for air quality management in countries that are undergoing development.          

In recent years, there has been an expansion in the use of low-cost sensors for measuring air quality. At the same time, people have cautioned that the sensors require a lot of time/personnel? What are your thoughts on this?

The purpose is important. I mean if you want to check your personal exposure, or maybe the workplace environment or maybe how your air purifier works, you can definitely opt for a low cost sensor. Perhaps you may even use it for collecting pilot air quality data. The key thing is if you understand the limitation of any instrument, you will be able to use that wisely. The same principle is true for low cost sensors. There are a plethora of products in the market and some of them are good too. I believe this sector has immense potential in the future, but there is also a lot to address including issues such as calibration, maintenance and lifetime. 

How do you see the use of low-cost sensors changing over the next few years?

As the sensors are cheap and available people will buy it. I believe people working in non-government sectors will set up their own monitoring sites and with that plenty of open sourced data will be in public domain. I strongly think when people able to visualize the level of pollutants in the air , the awareness will be achieved. And this will incorporate common people into govt decision making system, they will be vocal for clean air.

Are you planning to collaborate with other organizations? How can people connect with you?

Yes, I am looking for people working with the community in developing countries, economists, air quality professionals, artists to collaborate. I am open for discussion no matter the background. People can connect me through my blog or via e-mail.

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