Govt wants ideas to clean up city air

With air pollution at a `very poor’ level in Delhi, the government is crowdsourcing ideas to improve the quality of environment. It will award the best ideas received through Urban Labs Innovation Challenge that will be launched on Tuesday in association with University of Chicago.

Michael Greenstone, director of Energy Policy Institute and Urban Labs’ Energy and Environment Lab, spoke to TOI about the city’s pollution problem and the objectives of the programme. “I think we have a tremendous opportunity here to combine the best of government action and academic research to solve one of the biggest problems in Delhi, and one of the biggest problems that all governments in the world are facing, and that is the environment challenge.“

Greenstone, who has researched extensively on energy and environment issues in developing countries, said Delhi’s air is among the most polluted in the country, with several factors, including vehicular pollution and open burning, contributing to it.His research in north China had indicated that people there live 4-5 years less than those in the country’s south due to the government’s policy of giving subsidized coal during winter.

“Exposure to much higher concentration of particulate matter had the unintended consequence of reducing life expectancy by an average of 4-5 years. That study was useful in isolating the cause of air pollution.“ He added that, if the Indian government brings down particulate levels in air to the permissible limits, life expectancy would increase by about three years. “This applies to 660 million people, including those who live in Delhi.“air quality

Crowdsourcing is being used for environment and energy issues for the past few months, but in the US it has been used for other socia challenges as well, for exam ple crime. In Chicago, the results of a similar competi tion were announced recent ly when residents suggested solutions to the city’s energy problems. The winning project focused on ways for low-income homes to con serve energy.

“Delhi’s air pollution problems have been long in he making and cannot be solved immediately . However, one important thing to do s to gather reliable real-time nformation on sources of pollution,“ Greenstone said, adding, “Providing the reguators with this information can be very effective. Second y, it is very necessary to make a strong link between pollution and its impact on health. This will help us come up with low-cost soluions to combat pollution.“

The government will announce the programme, giving interested parties three months to submit their proposals. The winning candidate’s project will be tested by the university to ook at its implementation and scalability. The project will be made public by the summer of 2016.

Source: TOI 01 Dec’2015