Will an app a day keep air pollution away?
MUMBAI: Growing concerns over the air quality in metros such as Delhi and Mumbai have led to a surge in mobile apps that keep users updated on the latest pollution levels and health warnings.
In the past one year alone, at least five apps for iOS and Android platforms have been developed by a Pune-based research institute, a Paris-based start-up, a not-for-profit organisation, a personal assistant app and an air purifier firm for metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.
Even though this sudden growth could indicate an increase in awareness about air pollution and its impact on health, experts are cautious. According to them, there is a need for a standard operating procedure that ensures the data provided is standardised and regulated and therefore credible. For instance, based on their individual air quality index, one app may issue a health warning to patients sensitive to air pollution, while another app’s warning may not be as severe.
“Several start-ups will develop such apps, which should be encouraged. But the information they provide could be an overestimation or an underestimation, leading to confusion,” said Vivek Chattopadhyay, deputy coordinator, air pollution unit, Centre for Science and Environment. Delhi.
“The government must therefore lay down guidelines, where these companies should be registered with the central pollution control board to access data that will be common to all. There should also be a medical panel to standardise health warnings,” he said.
It was in February 2015 that India got its first air quality mobile app — SAFAR Air (SAFAR stands for System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) — developed by scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, in collaboration with the India Meteorology Department (IMD) — both under the Union ministry of earth sciences — at 10 locations each, for Delhi and Pune, followed by Mumbai in June.