High impact, low-cost sensors and citizen science for urban Air Quality Management

With the support of Urban Pathways, open-seneca provided 20 air quality monitoring devices, which arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 19 August 2021. Sajha Yatayat and TU-CDES facilitated arrangements for the devices to reach Kathmandu by signing an MoU with the Centre for Global Equality allowing for tax and duty exemption of the sensor shipment entering Nepal approved by the Ministry of Finance. After the devices were released by customs, a capacity building workshop in Kathmandu was remotely hosted by open-seneca and facilitated by Shrithu Shrestha, representing Urban Pathways, on 1 Oct 2021. The local sensor champion, Nivesh Dugar, gathered more than 10 volunteers for the event, mainly students and members of the cycling network in Kathmandu. The workshop introduced the participants to the sensing device and how to assemble it to build the capacity for a range of locally hosted small sensor building events over the weekend. The sensor distribution took place on 4 October 2021.

In Kathmandu, 17 sensors deployed on the various common modes of transport. While the cycling, motorcycling and motorcycling volunteers used the open-seneca mobile application to upload and visualize their data, the other modes of transport operated the open-seneca with the onboard SD card saving mechanism.

This required manual uploading to the open-seneca data platform, facilitated by GD Labs after a week. Despite the short data collection timeframe, the volunteers had collected more than 400000 data points in Kathmandu, each corresponding to an individual air quality measurement at a specific location, and covered 42 km², corresponding to a data density of 9532 data points/km². All data has been forwarded to the University of Helsinki’s Mega Sense platform to validate their simulations on the Nepalese capital.

After processing the data and removing the pollution baseline of the city, open-seneca identified various air pollution hotspots across the city. Particularly, the western and southwestern segments of the H16 ring road were found to be the most polluted areas in Kathmandu during this study.

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