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Breathe Bengaluru

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Neighbourhood level study to understand the experience of air pollution on ground

Location: BTM Layout, Bengaluru

Partner/Collaborators: Sensors Without Borders (sensor manufacturer), Dr. Pallavi Pant, (Atmospheric Science and data analysis); St. Johns Hospital (Medical Expertise); BTM Resident Welfare Organizations (Community perspective); Traffic police (Traffic expertise); Student Volunteers from Christ University, BMS University

Duration: Oct 2016 - June 2017

Status: Completed

Breathe Bengaluru’ was a collaborative study conducted between 2016-17 in neighbourhood of BTM in Bengaluru. It was conceived to develop a hyperlocal, scalable, 'Neighbourhood model' to understand deteriorating air quality in the context of the Indian city fabric and its impact on public health, ground up. The exercise brought together a coalition of experts in the fields of urban planning, atmospheric sciences, public health, traffic modeling and technology (sensor makers) in conjunction with local resident community groups. A key aspect here, was the focus on 'assessing local air', as opposed to ambient air, so that AQ data is more reflective of the experience of air pollution on ground. The choice of BTM as a neighbourhood was triggered by a startling article declaring BTM as the most polluted neighbourhood in the country - 'A Bangalore neighbourhood’s toxic air portends India’s future.'

In addition, the study also included two key inquiries:

1) What is the whole stack of data sets that need to be collected to make the issue of air pollution actionable on ground from a preventive and curative perspective

2) What is the relationship between city design and the air quality that's produced

The study design consisted of 4 components:

1) A network of 6 air quality monitors set up strategically in the neighborhood grid of 1.5km x 1.5km, representing varied urban conditions

2) 227 Field surveys: documenting perceptions of people, their daily behaviors trends and health impact (including health cost)

3) Health assessment: conducting pulmonary function tests for a sample population.* Due to constraints the last component was not executed.

4) 5 Open Houses: The whole study was punctuated with open houses to share learning with community groups, invite new experts and volunteers as well as create a larger dialogue around air pollution in the city. The final Open House #5, brought together 8 other city based organizations to create an alliance around the issue and was covered by NDTV as breaking news

The BB study executed till June '17 was imagined as phase 1, while phase 2 was to potentially serve two other purposes. The first was to re-deploy the (bigger) network of sensors in other neighbourhoods across the city, to do air audits involving local community groups as well as provide data for land use regression modeling. While the second was to deepen the understanding of hotspots of pollution in the city and test effectiveness of mitigative measures on the field. The study has since been presented at various conferences, particularly in the context of humanizing the issue of air pollution.

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