Workshop Notes: Real-time Nationwide Low-Cost Sensor Network for Air Quality Monitoring

A workshop on “Real-time Nationwide Low-Cost Sensor Network for Air Quality Monitoring” was organised on August 29th, 2018 at the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, New Delhi. The workshop was meant to give a platform for  sharing of knowledge amongst stakeholders. The intent was to deliberate upon full spectrum of low-cost sensor monitoring of air pollution including policy issues, modelling and remote monitoring of air quality.  (agenda available here)

Key points from the workshop are noted below.

Arun Kumar Mehta, MoEFCC:

Technology will play a big role in improving India’s clean air. Action on air quality needs to be made a budgetary issue since it won’t work without investment.

Data needs to be fit for purpose, we don’t always need (or can get) 100% accurate data. What we need is data we can work with, and if we know what the accuracy levels are, we can work with the low-cost sensors.

Since we have very few stations in rural areas, we need to expand monitoring there, and also expand across India; this can only be achieved through a combination of regulatory-grade and low-cost instruments.

Ajai Mathur, TERI:

We have to understand the importance of data in influencing public opinion. Availability of data made it easier to ask questions and demand action.

Four critical issues with respect to air quality (AQ) monitoring:

  • Coverage, both geographic and for all pollutant species (focusing on other pollutants beyond PM10 and PM2.5)
  • Credibility, precision and accuracy of the devices
  • Transparency, making data available and accessible
  • Cost-effectiveness, credible data at an affordable cost

Ashutosh Sharma, DST:

We need technology both for measurement (and data analysis) of air pollution and control of pollution (at source). Also, we can’t work in silos; integration across sectors is key!

C K Mishra, MoEFCC:

Unless we are able to get data from the entire geography, it is hard to come up with effective solutions. We need a strong knowledge base for country-wide monitoring and this is resource-intensive. In the Ministry, we believe that our work is guided by science and not hearsay. 

Sagnik Dey, IIT-Delhi:

Satellite data is freely available and is easy to access. There is an opportunity to use satellite data to augment decision-making on regulatory monitoring and low-cost sensors. Satellite can guide us in terms of selection of locations for placement of sensors.

Results from two projects funded as part of the DST-Intel Collaborative Research for real-time river water and air quality monitoring were presented at the workshop:

  • The first project was Streaming Analytics over Temporal Variables from Air quality Monitoring (SATVAM) being implemented by IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Bombay and IISc Bangalore. The project aims to collect air quality information sustainably, nation-wide, and at a low cost to allow policy makers and citizens to deploy data-driven control and preventive mechanisms. The focus is on low-cost PM2.5 sensors, ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) sensors; concentrated photovoltaic conversion backed up by Li-ion battery based storage. Together, the idea is to integrate the entire hardware, communication and software stack, from local sensing to distributed analytics, to offer a comprehensive solution. Members of the SATVAM team presented results (in some cases) on different facets of the development and use of low-cost sensors in India.

ATMOS network (PM monitoring) : The network is focused on improving data availability in remote areas, or in places where AQ monitoring isn’t currently in place. At IIT-Bombay, Dr. Rajesh Zele‘s team is working on development of gas sensor nodes (using Alphasense sensors). Current tests with ATMOS monitors show encouraging results (Zheng et al., AMT), and further analyses are currently underway.

  • The other project entitled High Resolution Air Quality Monitoring and Air Pollutant Data Analytics  and is being undertaken by IISc Bangalore and CSIR-CEERIThe project aims to develop and validate a low-cost sensor system coupled with improved techniques of sampling and calibrations to develop the air quality index and identify sources of pollutants with focus on vehicular pollution.

Another interesting project that is currently under development is being led by Dr. Rijurekha Sen at IIT-Delhi. The  idea is to install low-cost sensors on DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System) buses and monitor air pollution around the city. However, there are technical and logistical challenges that the team is currently working to resolve.

Media coverage from the event:

This technology monitor will help your cellphones read air quality instantly 

News regarding the SATVAM project:

 “Government committed to harness science and technology for the preservation of environment”:  Dr. Harsh Vardhan  

Announcement of research projects for DST-Intel Collaborative Research for real-time river water and air quality monitoring

Job Alert | Smart Air

Smart Air is looking for a charismatic individual with excellent communication skills for a position to lead our air pollution education project in India. The individual should be based in New Delhi or willing to relocate.

How to Apply

Send an email with your CV and a cover letter explaining why you want to work for Smart Air to

The deadline for application is 30th September 2018.

Job details

Spotlight: AirOK Technologies

*Please note that the profile does not indicate endorsement of the products.* 

AirOK team

AirOK was founded in 2015 by three IIT Madras graduates, who shared the vision of developing solutions that will address air pollution, which is a serious threat facing the world at large. Mr. Deekshith Vara Prasad who founded this company along with Pavan Reddy and Sravan Krishna worked on Air quality management project during his graduation at IIT Madras realised that the drastic deterioration in air quality has been driven by newer range of pollutants, which have changed over the years and the need of the hour is a solution that will counter all types of pollutants.

A short Q & A with Deekshith Vara Prasad, CEO of AirOK:

What is the product line up at AirOK? What’s unique about the products?

AirOk air purifier.png

AirOK product line include wide range of Air quality management solutions. We have developed first indigenously developed Indoor Air purifier with unique patented filter technology. We are also expanding our clean air solution to outdoor air purification by building Ambient air purification station. We are also working air purification inside kitchens and automobiles. AirOK also working on Air quality monitoring solutions using sensors for future smart cites in India.

Are the air purifiers tested under laboratory conditions for efficiency?

AirOK indoor air purifiers were tested both in laboratories and field conditions. It has third party certification (Shriram Institute for Industrial Research Laboratories and IIT Madaras) and product testimonials from various organisations.

How big is the team at AirOK? What are some of the skills that are key to the business model of the company?

Currently AirOK is an 18 member team. Being passionate toward solving the real problem to make India a safe place in term of air quality is what we looking for along with some technical knowledge in filtration technologies.

What are some of the challenges as a business in the air pollution domain?  

Major challenge would be the invisibility factor. There is not much awareness built on bad air quality, which makes us work on creating awareness on affects of bad air quality. There is always a skepticism involved in air purification due to this invisibility factor.

We believe in product speaking rather than we speaking, just leaving our demo units with the customer to feel the difference. Cost is also a very sensitive parameter. For other products, the customer is aware of what he is buying, but in this case, he needs to believe what sales guy says because no one can see air.

Also, there are many products in the market but hardly 2 to 3 Qualified R&D centers for research and testing.

What are your plans for the next year?

We are planning to expand globally with our current product, indoor air purifier and launch two other key innovative products into the market in next one year.


Find AirOK on Facebook | Twitter 


What explains adoption of clean cooking fuel in India?

A new research study from ILK Consultancy (India), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and University of Washington (USA), and University of British Columbia (Canada) examined the relationship between LPG adoption/disadoption and household factors in India.

The major conclusion from the study is that change in assets and women’s empowerment can explain some of the dynamics of adoption and disadoption of clean-cooking options.

Details: Poster

Clearing the Air: Seminar Series

Clearing the Air Seminar Series was organised by the Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment (ICEE) at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR). This series aimed to promote sustained and informed public understanding around the data, impacts, sources and policy challenges involved in clearing Delhi’s air. While it focused on the context of Delhi, the series also reflected on the fact that the problem extends far beyond Delhi. The seminar series presented the work of experts in a range of areas to help promote informed public discussion about what changes are needed, what is possible, and how to get it done. Clearing the air in terms of knowledge and public information, the organizers hope, will make a small contribution toward actually clearing Delhi’s air.

Learn more about the series here, and watch the videos here.

Ongoing research program in Delhi-NCR

Atmospheric Pollution and Human Health in an Indian Megacity is a four year research programme jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Newton–Bhabha Fund, and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT). Urban air pollution is a severe problem in India with significant impacts on the economy and the health of the population.

This programme, which has been organised into four interrelated themes, will support research on the sources and emissions of urban air pollution in New Delhi, India, the processes underlying and impacting on these, and how air pollution then impacts on health. Existing and new findings will be combined to understand the cost-effectiveness of potential interventions and thus identify appropriate solutions for the benefit of the economy and population.

Learn more about the various projects here.

*Note: Text is from the project website*

Postdoc Opportunity: Fogarty Fellowship

Applications are open for one Indian applicant and one US applicant for postdoctoral fellowships of the Global Health Equity Scholars Program at UC Berkeley to work in India on policy, air pollution, and health. If awarded, the candidate would spend at least 10 months in New Delhi, India, working with The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), between August 2019 and August 2020 in the newly established  Collaborative Centre of Air Policy Research (

A competitive candidate will contribute expertise in the areas of household energy use, agricultural and industry regulation, ambient air pollution, national social investment, and/or health effects.

Eligibility: Doctorate degree required, terminal degree within the past five years; graduate students who will complete a doctorate degree by June 2019 can apply.

For US applicant: US citizenship or residency is required.

For Indian applicant: Indian citizenship is required.

Potential applicants who meet the eligibility criteria and who can commit to spending the required months in New Delhi should e-mail a CV or resume to Maria Teresa Hernandez

If selected on this first round, the applicant will submit a full GHES application (including the endorsement of the GHES mentors) by November 15, 2018.

Information about the application is available at


H/T: Shahzad Gani

New report on Household Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Disease

HEI has published a new report on Household Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Disease, which provides a critical assessment of the state of the science examining the linkages between household air pollution formed by the burning of solid fuels and noncommunicable diseases. The report updates previous systematic reviews with the most recent studies and answers fundamental questions on the scientific basis for estimating health burden and what the evidence suggests about the exposure reductions necessary to achieve improved health outcomes. A Summary for Policy Makers is also available.

Key conclusions from the report:

  • Widespread use of solid fuel stoves by approximately one third of the world’s population imposes a heavy burden on global public health. The most recent estimate from the IHME GBD study estimates that in 2016, the number of deaths attributable to HAP was 2.6 million worldwide, making it the 8th leading risk factor globally, and with ambient air pollution, the leading environmental risk factor.
  • Overall, the new evidence reviewed in this report is broadly consistent with previous conclusions that HAP is strongly associated with numerous diseases.
  • Though data gaps and challenges in intervention effectiveness remain, epidemiological evidence indicates that reducing HAP exposures should be an effective way to improve public health worldwide.
  • Accelerating transitions to modern fuels and electricity that are most likely to achieve the necessary exposure reductions would be an ideal path forward.
  • Strategic efforts are now needed to change, and perhaps transform, energy systems to deliver high quality energy services to low-income households, not only for cooking, but also for heating and lighting.


Note: Taken from HEI’s website



Spotlight: Dr. Lynn Mazzoleni

20180729_173820Dr. Mazzoleni is an Associate Professor of Chemistry and the Co-Director of the Chemical Advanced Resolution Methods (ChARM) Laboratory at Michigan Tech. Her primary research interests are focused on the identification of organic aerosol constituents from various atmospheric environments with a special interest in biomass combustion and aqueous phase chemistry. Dr. Mazzoleni’s research group studies atmospheric complex mixtures using mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, and data science methods.

Website | Twitter

A short Q&A with Dr. Mazzoleni:

Welcome to India! What brings you here? Is this your first visit? 

Thanks for the warm welcome. My spouse, Claudio Mazzoleni and I, participated in three scientific activities and did some sightseeing over about 2.5 weeks. First, we participated in a GIAN sponsored workshop. The course was a lot of fun! We managed to have lots of time for informal interactions (tea breaks, lunches, and time before/after sessions) to get to know the students. We visited a local high school for a science symposium with kids. The kids asked lots of questions and seem to be inspired by the event/interaction. Finally, we participated in an International Symposium. These activities were organized by our host, Dr. Ravi Varma of NIT Calicut.

Yes, it was my first visit to India and I can say that the first few days were a bit overwhelming for me because of the culture shock. I knew that Indians drove on the left, but I didn’t know about their driving culture. 🙂 I also was surprised by the obvious lack of public infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, parking areas, drinking water, and other things that I’ve generally taken for granted in the US). Despite this, I saw that Indians are very resilient, humble, and compassionate. I can’t fully describe the emotion that this combination of observations stirs within me, but it’s overall very optimistic.

Can you tell us a little bit about the NIT-Calicut meeting? What was the objective?

The primary objective of both meetings was education/dissemination of research knowledge. The GIAN sponsored course included mainly Ph.D. students with some junior faculty/researchers from nearby and far away places. The International Symposium included several junior faculty and several other senior faculty speakers from other institutions. The actual turnout of expert lecturers was less than originally intended due to insufficient funds for supporting international travel, but several people participated despite this limitation. We had speakers and participants from China, Nepal, Israel, Canada, France, USA, and India.

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How was your personal experience vis-a-vis the air quality in India?

The monsoon was fairly intense during my stay in Kerala, so the air quality was very likely much better than usual. However, I observed a lot of high emitters on the road (tucks, auto rickshaws, buses, and other older vehicles). Fortunately, the standard practice of my hosts was to keep the car vent on recirculate, so it wasn’t too bad. I also observed trash burning beside the road and noticed a large smoke plume at some point, which I assumed was from trash burning. Perhaps the bigger surprise was the indoor air quality. I felt uncomfortable in some indoor spaces because of the mold/mildew.

Can you comment on the major research questions related to aerosol physical and chemical properties as it relates to India? Where is the research headed, and what are the major barriers?

This is a tough question to answer because I did notice a disconnect between the ‘state of the science’ in the US and Europe compared to India. The overall lack of measurements and detailed research in India make it hard to know exactly what to do. At first glance, one could say that the problems are similar to earlier problems in the US. But, upon second glance one realizes that the public infrastructure, state/federal laws, and cultural aspects all play important roles. I also thought quite a bit about the impact of anthropogenic emissions in terms of semi-volatile partitioning and secondary processes (gas phase and aqueous phase).

Overall, it seems to me that the most urgent questions pertain to the health effects of the emissions and secondary processes in India. I understood from informal conversations that the cultural practices and a lack of knowledge present unique challenges inhibiting air quality improvement. For example, Dr. Khare mentioned that people in Delhi who receive liquid fuels for cooking would rather sell it than use it. It seems they do not fully appreciate the health impacts associated with the solid fuel cooking practices. This is very difficult for an outsider like me to understand. In another example, a pair of students from Delhi Tech talked about the effect of a recent firecracker ban in Delhi on the air quality during the Diwali festival. The students are just starting and they have some promising insights, but because they haven’t been able to monitor the metals associated with the firecrackers and so they cannot eliminate the co-varying factors that contribute to the air quality during the Diwali. After some casual conversation, I learned that firecrackers are a relatively modern aspect of the ‘festival of light’. Traditionally, oil lamps were used to light up homes, etc. They also expressed concerns about the origin of the firecrackers (being sold despite the ban) and suggested that perhaps the new imported firecrackers contain more hazardous metals than the domestic ones (which are no longer in production due to the ban).

Do you have any advice for the early career researchers interested in working on air pollution in India?


Yes, I have two primary suggestions. First, spend some quality time on public engagement activities. I think that the future of air quality in India depends on the public understanding of its importance. We visited a high school and talked with 50 students, several teachers, and several parents. It was a blast! My only regret is that I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into and it takes some practice to talk with young audiences. Second, build a network of colleagues, especially within India, but try to include foreign researchers in your network as well. You’re dealing with some tough and unique challenges that need attention. The network and resulting collaborations will only strengthen your efforts.

On a lighter note, you talked about your first auto-rickshaw ride. How was your experience?  

It was bumpy, but a lot of fun! One of the things that I especially found interesting about the rickshaws (and buses) was their custom embellishments. I love that people took the time to decorate these vehicles. They truly add to the charm of India.



Researchers Provide a Roadmap to Clean Up India’s Air

More than 660 million Indians live in areas that exceed the country’s standard for what is considered safe exposure to fine particulate pollution (PM2.5). To help improve India’s air quality, researchers from the University of Chicago and Harvard Kennedy School have laid out five key evidence-based policy recommendations in a new report titled “A Roadmap Towards Cleaning India’s Air.”

“Air pollution is causing hundreds of millions of people in India to lead shorter and sicker lives,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago (TCD).

“However, we are at the dawn of a new era where the combination of advances in computing power and big data are creating radical new opportunities for environmental regulations to reduce air pollution, without undermining the urgent goal of robust economic growth in India.”

The recommendations included:

  • Improving emissions monitoring by better aligning incentives of auditors
  • Providing regulators with real-time data on polluters’ emissions
  • Applying monetary charges for excess emissions
  • Providing the public with information about polluters, and
  • Using markets to reduce abatement costs and pollution

Elaborating further, Rohini Pande, the Rafik Hariri Professor of International Political Economy and co-director of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School, said, “While the economic costs of pollution are high, and there is no easy solution, we remain optimistic because of the incredible innovations currently being experimented with throughout India.”

The policy brief was issued in conjunction with the National Conference on Innovations in Pollution Regulation, organized by EPIC-India and the TCD in New Delhi on 13 August, 2018. Aimed at facilitating knowledge sharing between policymakers, regulators and academics on pollution regulation and measurement, representatives from more than five state pollution control boards and experts from India and abroad attended the conference.

Inaugurated by Hon’ble Justice Mr. Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairman of the National Green Tribunal, the discussions delved deep to explore questions around the role of pollution data in decision-making, the need for better quality data, strengthening enforcement through public disclosure, and the advantages of market-based instruments in reducing pollution, among others.

Download the policy brief here.

Note: The material listed here is based on the press released from EPIC-India.