Collaborations for Developing the Science Base for Improved Air Quality in India

President's Global Innovation Fund
Ruth DeFries
Columbia Global Centers | South Asia

Improved air quality in Indian cities is a primary need for healthy living environments amidst rapid economic development. Currently, air quality in major Indian cities is amongst the worst in the world. Indoor air pollution from burning biomass for cooking and heating also continues to be a major public health problem in rural areas. Emissions sources include coal-fired power plants, industry, vehicles, and agricultural and biomass burning, which contribute to harmful air pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. An interdisciplinary science-base is desperately needed to identify approaches that will be effective for improving air quality. 

Principal Investigator

Ruth DeFries
Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development

We propose a planning activity through the Global Center in Mumbai to initiate long-term collaborations, joint projects, and student exchanges with the Center for Environmental Science and Engineering (CESE) at Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai (Powai), the leading technical institute in the country. The proposed activity brings together an interdisciplinary group of scientists from public health, atmospheric chemistry, and atmospheric transport modeling to explore specific topics and mechanisms for collaboration. The group includes scientists and students from CESE at IIT (Sethi and Patel); Columbia University scientists from Mailman School of Public Health (Kinney), Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (Fiore), and Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology (DeFries and Marlier); and scientists from Harvard University (Mickley, Myers, and Jacob; costs for Harvard scientists are not requested in this proposal). The involvement of scientists from Harvard University grows from an interdisciplinary project, in which the PI participates, on modeling the health impacts of emissions in Indonesia. The modeling tools from this work serve as a strong entry point for application in the Indian context. 

The planning activity has two components: a 2.5-day planning meeting in Mumbai to identify topics and mechanisms for collaboration; and an activity involving students, including undergraduates, to coalesce data sources in preparation for the meeting.