Will an app a day keep air pol­lu­tion away?

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Sne­hal Re­bello sne­hal.re­bello@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

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