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11 Feb 2020 | Atmosphere Initiative

Reliable data generation through improved air quality monitoring skills within the HKH

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Engineers from equipment manufacturers Thermo Fisher Scientific India trained 16 men and women from partner agencies in Nepal and Bhutan to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and calibrate instruments in air quality stations. (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

Rising emissions of air pollutants from urban, industrial, and rural sources have been steadily affecting the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region over recent decades. This has raised concerns about deteriorating air quality, impacts on health and visibility, and changes in atmospheric systems and the climate.

ICIMOD’s Atmospheric Watch Initiative aims to facilitate effective measures and policies for reducing air pollution and its impacts within the HKH region by improving knowledge and enhancing the capacity of partners in ICIMOD’s eight Regional Member Countries (RMC). Working with partners in the RMCs, ICIMOD contributes to generating crucial scientific evidence of ambient air pollution in the region. This is expected to enable governments, policy makers, and other stakeholders to take action based on the knowledge generated.

ICIMOD in partnership with the Department of Environment in Nepal and the National Environment Commission in Bhutan operates several air quality stations. These stations measure aerosol and trace gases. The trace gas measurement instruments provide concentrations of ozone, SO2, CO, NO, NO2, and NOx. These instruments require regular servicing and calibration to ensure the highest quality of data. So far, ICIMOD scientists had been providing support for basic troubleshooting; the instruments had to be shipped to the ICIMOD headquarters in Kathmandu and then on to the original equipment manufacturer for calibration and maintenance. In an effort to strengthen the generation of scientific evidence, ICIMOD organized a 10-day training workshop in January 2020 to train nine men and seven women from partner agencies in Bhutan and Nepal to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and calibrate the instruments for reliable data generation and dissemination.

Participants gained basic knowledge of the instruments’ working principles, daily operation, maintenance, calibration, and troubleshooting. The hands-on training was conducted with actual equipment during the annual maintenance and was guided by engineers from Thermo Fisher Scientific India, the original manufacturers. This allowed the participants to learn from real-world problems and scenarios.

The participants appreciated the intensive training, which built their capacity to actively discuss and troubleshoot potential instrument problems with ICIMOD colleagues. The trainers outlined the training’s importance given the fact that functionality and daily operation and maintenance are the biggest challenges for air quality monitoring stations. Arnico Pandey, Regional Programme Manager of the Atmosphere Programme at ICIMOD, emphasized that for data to be unavailable is unacceptable, but to have incorrect data is much worse. He encouraged participants to continue to rely on each other to collect and share accurate and reliable data, explaining that data and knowledge should be transboundary because air pollution crosses borders too.

The 10-day training workshop promoted reliable data generation and dissemination on air quality.
The 10-day training workshop promoted reliable data generation and dissemination on air quality. (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)
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