Parisar releases new report on air quality and smart cities

Parisar released its recent report - 'Clearing the Haze: An analysis of air qualiy improvements in six smart cities in Maharashtra' at an online event on 28th August 2020 at 4 pm. The report based on a study conducted in the six cities of Aurangabad, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Thane and Solapur, focused on how the smart cities mission had affected air quality management in these nonattainment cities. 

The programme started with a brief presentation of the summary of findings from the report. To understand how the Smart Cities Mission has dealt with deteriorating air quality in cities, the study looked at how the cities determined their base level (on a scale of 1-4), projects they proposed to improve air quality and finally the status of those projects. The study used data received from the smart city SPVs, and stakeholder consultations. Following are the important findings from the study;

  1. All cities have fitted air sensors under the mission, but there is no clarity on how the data generated by these is and will be used by the city. 
  2. Mission city information, such as project status and actual outcomes were difficult to obtain.
  3. While it is mandatory for each city to report on air quality in the proposal, there is no logic as to why certain projects have been proposed and to what extent they would help improve air quality.
  4. Poor convergence was found between the city AQ action plans made under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and the Smart Cities Mission. While it was announced that the mission would be used to leverage the NCAP in the 43 nonattainment Smart Cities, the analysis shows that this goal has not been achieved



Smart Cities Mission Director, Kunal Kumar addressed the event after the report findings were presented. He stated that it is crucial to understand that cities and their issues are governed by a continuum, and the city’s life cycle and the stage of development they are in currently. That is why cities which are poster boys of clean air today like London and Tokyo, were in fact highly polluted in the 1970s and 80s. In the same way, he said that Smart Cities are not made in one or two years. To make our cities better, he emphasized on being open to criticism, collaborative in approach and being keen to develop best practices through action, instead of blindly following best practices from elsewhere. On being asked about how information being generated by different sensors set up by the smart city corporation can be used effectively, he promised to have an open data platform of all such data from different cities at one place, and to generate live air quality information through it in the next few months.

Priyadarshini Karve High Resolution 2

This was followed by comments from guest speaker Dr Priyadarshini Karve (CEO,Samuchit Enviro Tech). She spoke about how the smart city solutions were driven by economic considerations and not sustainability. In a study done by them, they realised this focus of the mission on creating sellable services through smart technology. She also pointed out the problem with the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) approach, which creates parallel governance and compromised outcomes. She said that air quality isn’t yet a people’s issue, and the main challenge is to bring about that. In the absence of public awareness about air quality as an issue, governments have no motivation to take action.

Guttikunda Desk

Dr. Sarath Guttikunda (Founder, Urban Emissions) said that the report brought out the need of source apportionment for better air quality management. He emphasized on the airshed approach to air pollution, where one considers the surroundings of a city, where pollution is being generated and is affecting the city. He quoted Nagpur and Nashik to illustrate his point, saying that they have large power plants around the city which should be considered if air quality is to be tackled effectively. He also reiterated the importance of a centralised database of air quality information for better planning for air quality improvement.

This was followed by comments by Mr.Mahesh Moroney, CEO, Nagpur Smart City and Mrs. Manisha Pradhan, Environment Officer, Thane Municipal Corporation. Other related officials from the six cities were also invited, and some attended the event. Apart from them, the programme was open to public in general and journalists had been invited.


Media coverage:

Poor air quality in Smart Cities due to lack of coordination - The Hindu, 30th August 2020

Report on six smart cities in Maharashtra shows poor usage of air quality data - Times of India (Pune Edition), 30th August 2020

Air quality study in 6 smart cities finds no logic in some projects - Indian Express (Pune Edition), 30th August 2020

Parisar releases report on air quality management in six smart cities in Maharashtra - Punekar News, 30th August 2020


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