Hello everyone and welcome back to the Cognixia podcast. Every week, we discuss something new and interesting from emerging digital technologies, hoping to inspire our listeners to learn something new and advance in their careers. We hope everyone had a good, safe Diwali and we wish all our listeners are blessed with all the joy and success.
In today’s episode, we talk about something that has been in the news a lot this year and actually makes it to the news for all the undesirable reasons every year for quite some years now. Today, we talk about the AQI or the Air Quality Index. This year, Delhi became the World’s most polluted city in the world, with Mumbai and Kolkatta not far behind in the air quality index. Diwali time makes the air in these cities become absolutely unbreathable, with the rampant air pollution from bursting firecrackers, construction work, industrial pollution, burning the stubbles in farms, etc. and it is affecting the lives and health of everyone in and around these cities.
Air pollution levels in most of the urban areas are a cause of serious concern. It is the right of the people to know the quality of the air they are breathing. However, the data generated by the National Ambient Air Monitoring Network are reported in a form that may not be easily understood by common people. This system of air quality information was found inadequate to facilitate people’s participation in the air quality improvement efforts. With this in mind, the Central Pollution Control Board developed the Air Quality Index for Indian cities as a tool to disseminate information on air quality in qualitative terms, as well as its associated and likely impact on health. The Air Quality Index has six key objectives:
- Resource allocation
- Ranking of locations
- Enforcement of standards
- Trend analysis
- Public information, and
- Scientific research
Let us begin by first understanding what is the Air Quality Index. The Air Quality Index or AQI was introduced in 2015 and aimed at quantifying the severity of air pollution at a particular location. It is measured by recording the levels of multiple pollutants in the air. It is a single composite index that monitors eight important individual pollutants. These eight pollutants are PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, ammonia, and lead. These metrics are measured at different monitoring stations and the metric values are calculated using their average concentration values over a 24-hour span for all metrics except the carbon monoxide and the ground-level ozone metrics, which are measured over 8 hours. The health breakpoint concentration is also taken into consideration when calculating the Air Quality Index. Based on this, the worst sub-index value would be taken as the Air Quality Index for the location.
Sometimes, some monitoring stations may not measure all eight metrics at all times, In such cases, the air quality index would be calculated only if the data for at least three of the eight pollutants is available at the monitoring station. In such a case, at least one of those three metrics must be PMR2.5 or PM10. Also, a minimum of data for 16 hours is essential for this calculation. If these criteria are not met by the monitoring station, then the data is deemed insufficient to calculate the air quality index for that location.
Now, the important thing to understand here is how the Air Quality Index values are categorized. When is the pollution level deemed to be dangerous, when is it safe, when is it severe or when is it deemed very poor?
The Air Quality Index values are categorized based on the impact they have or can have on people’s health. An AQI value of 0 to 50 is considered ‘Good’.
An AQI value between 51 to 100 is considered ‘satisfactory’.
An AQI value between 101 to 200 is considered ‘moderate’.
An AQI value between 201 to 300 is considered ‘poor’.
An AQI value between 301 to 400 is considered ‘very poor’.
And, an AQI value between 401 to 500 is considered ‘severe’.
A ‘good’ Air Quality Index score will have minimal impact on the health of the citizens in the location while a ‘Satisfactory’ AQI rating will cause some breathing discomfort in vulnerable people, such as those with respiratory and cardiac ailments, including people with asthma. Poor Air Quality Index will cause breathing discomfort to most people when exposed to polluted air for long enough. Very poor AQI would cause respiratory illnesses among people when exposed to polluted air for prolonged periods. Severe Air Quality Index would affect even healthy people and would aggravate the conditions with pre-existing health problems.
Now, you can understand that the measurement of these metrics is powered by multiple digital technologies. There are sensors for capturing the data. There are elaborate and efficient software and applications likely built and updated with DevOps, to process and analyze the data powered by data analytics and machine learning algorithms. There is cloud computing to store and access the data. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the AQI calculation is done by a web-based system, designed to provide the AQI on a real-time basis. It is an automated system that captures data from continuous monitoring stations without human intervention and displays AQI based on running average values. This means that the Air Quality Index at 6 AM today will incorporate the data from 6 AM yesterday to 6 AM. The CPCB also has some manual monitoring stations where systems are designed such that the data can be fed manually to obtain the Air Quality Index value for that station.
To dig deeper into the elaborate systems that calculate the Air Quality Index possible, let us look at the potential limitations of the AQI. The CPCB states in this regard, “The monitoring and subsequent Air Quality Index dissemination involves multiple steps including operation of sensors and analyzers, their calibration, data acquisition at local servers, transmission to a central database using the internet, etc.” This should give you some idea of the tech power that goes into obtaining the data for different metrics and the subsequent calculation of the Air Quality Index for different locations. But for us, the public at large, a simple query on ChatGPT or a Google Search can fetch us the index in just a fraction of a second.
With that, we come to the end of this week’s episode of the Cognixia podcast. We highly recommend visiting our website – www.cognixia.com to check out the year-end promotions and offers for our complete range of live online instructor-led training and certification programs. You can connect with us directly over the chat function on the website and our team will help you with all your queries.
We hope you found today’s episode interesting and you were able to learn something new. We strive to keep inspiring you with our insightful episodes and we will be back again next week with a fresh, new episode of the Cognixia podcast. Until next week then, happy learning!