A significant policy An initiative from the Government of India
According to this decade’s most important policy initiative of the Government of India, put forth through the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoE&CC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) “real-time environmental monitoring in Indian industries” is now a reality.
A new-age technology is set to replace the conventional system of checking for compliance with pollution, with advanced, digitized, and labor-freeing equipment.

What used to be done before
Traditionally, pollution monitoring of ambient air or stack emission relied on discrete sampling and testing which can provide precise and accurate information for a defining moment and location. But utility is limited as these results cannot present the dynamics of ambient air or stack emission systems.
To overcome these limitations, continuous monitoring, using sensors, is required. This allows for extensive real-time data collection over a fully representative time period.
Of late, technological advancements have made this a viable alternative to the older methods of discrete sampling and testing. And this is why regulatory bodies around the world are now interested in continuous monitoring – as the only method to be followed today for the most informed management decisions.

India’s status
India is a relatively new entrant in this new move towards better pollution monitoring and control. In fact, before February 2014, it was not mandated by the Pollution Board. Till then, the conventional system was carried out by external agencies who would hand in a report to a few people after months.
The new order not only brings in greater credibility, transparency, and efficiency but also encourages a self-monitoring attitude within industries. This type of monitoring is online and the reporting is immediate. This is why this new system has become the standard the world over.

A mandate by the Government of India and other requirements
The current mandate of the Government of India is that Real-Time Online Monitoring is a pre-requisite not only for the 17 categories of highly polluting industries but also for all the medium and small scale industries located in the Gangetic basin. Effluent monitoring has to be done according to the CPCB standards.
Not only that, but there are also several state-level regulatory requirements as well which demand industries use real-time monitors such as “Particulate Matter Emission Trading Scheme” (PM-ETS) in Gujarat, and the “Star Rating Programme” in Odisha, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
Apart from these, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed all red-category industries in Delhi-NCR to install Real-Time Monitors because of high-level pollution in this region.

The boom in business for technology manufacturers
These new regulations have created a huge requirement of these new-age monitors in India. The market is so huge that almost all such technology manufacturers, internationally, have started operating here. The approximate size of this market, as of now, would be Rs.5, 000 crores which include installation and maintenance of various types of continuous emission monitors (CEMS), effluent quality monitors (CEQMS), ambient air quality monitors (CAAQMS), and portable equipment for environmental monitoring and testing. The market continues to expand and is expected to keep growing in the future.

The goals
The aim is of the new initiatives are to shift monitoring practices to digital and online platforms. This would enable the collection of credible data from industry, which would be used for legal compliance checks.
A tendency towards self-monitoring would also pervade the industry. Towards this end, the goal is inclusive: to boost the development of indigenous manufacturing, and the capability of certification, testing, and auditing of the real-time monitoring system.

The Role of Laboratories in India
Laboratories in India has the most important role in calibration, testing, and performance checks of the Real-Time Monitors according to the CPCB guidelines.

Instrument calibration and maintenance is an integral part of operating an air quality monitoring site and are vital for data quality assurance. Accurate and reliable monitoring results are crucial for data analysis, particularly when the monitoring results are to be compared with the relevant standards or guidelines for compliance purposes, or for population exposure and health risk assessments.
Where such analyses lead to air quality policy formulation and air pollution mitigation strategies, the quality of the original data is especially important.

Unfortunately, this specific job has not yet been assigned to laboratories. However, the CPCB had once issued a notice for laboratories to get impaneled but this process was not followed through.

For now, vendors or individual industries recognized by the Environment Protection Act (EPA) and accredited under the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), are not evaluated for Real-Time Monitoring expertise even though they are capable of carrying out these jobs and follow the protocol for operating and maintaining continuous monitoring systems stipulated by the CPCB.
It is up to the NABL to define the criteria for obtaining accreditation in accordance with ISO/IEC 1025:2017. It is important for them to define the procedure and protocol for the identification, evaluation, and empanelment of eligible laboratories as soon as the certification system is put in place.

The experience of the last six years is good enough. It is now time for all parties to utilize the investment and efforts on the ground.

The enterprise was shown by Mitra S.K. Pvt. Limited (MSK) in this field
MSK has taken a lot of initiative to develop expertise in the operation and maintenance of Community Air Quality Monitoring (CAQM) through regular site visits, ‘zero and span’ verification, analyzer calibration, internal performance cum system audit, and external performance cum system audit.

In addition, MSK has prepared a specific checklist which includes:

  • Monitoring records
  • Calibration
  • Equipment Maintenance
  • Calibration and maintenance documentation
  • Training
  • Data acquisition, storage, and checks
  • Negative data
  • Percent of valid data and data capture rate
  • Reporting monitoring results

In keeping with the initiatives of the Environment Ministry and the Pollution Board, the response of laboratories, and the preparedness of companies like MSK – it is high time that the Government follows up on its efforts to formalize and consolidate the changeover to new technology and digital and online platforms for a seamless transition to Real-Time Monitoring of data for the greater good.