WIT Researchers Conduct Analysis of Lahore’s Air Quality

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Winter Smog Project at the Centre for Water Informatics and Technology (WIT) aims to tackle the alarming increase in air pollution over the past few years, both urban and rural, in Lahore.

High surface-level Ozone (O3) is a risk to vegetation as well as human beings. Periods of high ozone concentration coincide with the growing season of crops. Consequently, in order to reduce the negative vegetation and health impacts, effective monitoring of air quality is the first step towards understanding the causes and consequences of air pollution and developing mitigation strategies.

WIT researchers developed an instrument suite capable of recording O3 (key pollutant), NO2, and CO concentrations, along with relative humidity and temperature. Subsequently, numerous field campaigns were conducted throughout Lahore and at LUMS; ozone trends were studied via yearlong simulations of the Community Multi-scale Air Quality Model. Additionally, data was collected through the Weather Research Forecast Model (CMAQ-WRF 3D model) along with observational data from Punjab Environmental Protection Department (EPD) for rural and urban areas. By applying bias correction, relative yield losses (RYL) were calculated for three staple crops, Maize, Soybean and Wheat, which are important to the agronomy of Pakistan.

As far as urban pollution is concerned, a correlation between the Ozone concentrations was understood by the various field campaigns. Also, a Near-Optimal Sensor Placement algorithm was implemented to identify locations suitable for placement of new air quality monitors. Finally, they tested an autonomous pollution driven algorithm for mobility to explore and verify the field captured by the air quality monitoring network.

At the time of the project, Joudat Bint Khalil, an Electrical Engineering MS Student, worked with Dr. Abubakr, Director WIT, and says of her experience, “Throughout the project, Dr. Abubakr kept me motivated and was there to provide constant guidance on every matter. Not only has this experience with WIT been amazing but also, I really enjoyed the journey to learn about a wide range of research being conducted under WIT. It is nice having a group, who takes you in and knows what you are up to, people who celebrate when things go well and sympathise when things don’t go to plan.”

Ms. Khalil is now a full time Research Associate at WIT.