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Helping India Fight Smog

UCR Scientists Help Train Indian Colleagues in Air Pollution Management

Two professors travel to Pune, India to train colleagues on the latest in air pollution management tools.

(July 24, 2006)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — University of California, Riverside mechanical engineering professors Akula Venkatram and Marko Princevac traveled to Pune, India as part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-sponsored team, to help Indian colleagues develop an integrated urban air quality management system.

They will participate in two-week workshop organized by India’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and the Pune Municipal Corporation.

The project team of three EPA scientists with professors Venkatram and Princevac, will demonstrate the use of AERMOD, an EPA-developed air quality modeling system used to formulate emission control strategies to manage air quality. Venkatram played a major role in the development of AERMOD. Princevac will provide training in the use of state-of-the-art instruments to measure meteorological variables and ambient particulate levels. These measurements are required to input data to AERMOD and evaluate the accuracy of concentration estimates from the model.

“This trip is part of a larger project between the U.S. and India, started 5 years ago, to develop an air quality management system much like the one we have here in the U.S.,” Venkatram said. “Pune is the pilot city, whose air quality problems are typical of other cities in India. Thus, the air quality management system for Pune should be transferable to other Indian cities.”

With a population of 4 million, Pune is India’s seventh largest city and is located 160 miles east of India’s largest metropolis, Mumbai, with a population of about 13 million. Pune’s vehicle population is estimated at about 1 million, 75 percent of which are two-wheeled. The average 24-hour concentrations of particulate matter in Pune’s air during most of the year have been monitored at more than 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air. By contrast, between 1992 and 2001, more than 90 percent of a sampling of 770 U.S. cites measured average daily concentrations of less than 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“We believe that many of the lessons learned from this modeling and measurement exercise will help in understanding and ameliorating the particulate matter levels found in most Asian cities,” said Princevac.

India’s rapidly growing and industrializing economy has brought increased affluence and a growing middle class to the world’s largest democracy. With at least 20 cities with populations of more than 1 million, India’s development has also spawned pollution problems that are among the most severe on the globe. As the robust Indian economy fuels urban growth, the combination of vehicle emissions and untreated industrial smoke has resulted in pollution levels several times India’s legal limits. Poor air quality has been blamed in the media for everything from a good proportion of the world’s 3 million annually recorded premature deaths to its effects on the South Asia Monsoons.

“We hope this pilot program will attract the attention of the World Bank, which could step in and offer ongoing support to the Indian government,” said Venkatram. He added that India has a strong regulatory framework to manage air quality, but it is difficult to enforce regulations and judge their efficacy without adequate modeling and measurement tools.
A pale band of haze hangs along the front of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh in this photo-like image, taken on February 5, 2006, by a NASA satellite.

A pale band of haze hangs along the front of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh in this photo-like image, taken on February 5, 2006, by a NASA satellite.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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