During a Facebook Live session on 18 October, Union minister of environment, forest, and climate change Prakash Javadekar addressed some of the burning issues in India’s constant battle with air pollution and the steps being taken by the Centre to tackle them. Most of north India has entered what is known as ‘peak pollution’ season, albeit this time with an added threat from the covid-19 pandemic.
One of the aspects Javadekar spoke about during his address was the SAMEER app, which not only shows a user real-time information on air quality from 100 cities across India but also lets you register a complaint on a wide range of pollution-related activities. So, how useful is it as compared to some other apps that can help you track AQI data?
First things first, the app is not new. It was developed and released in 2016. The app needs access to your device’s location to function properly. The first thing you see is a city-level AQI map view of India. You can zoom in to see the exact locations, but once you click on an AQI figure, the app shows you the correct monitoring station from where the data is being sourced, the AQI level on a green-to-red scale, a table on the levels of prominent pollutants detected in the area, plus the health impact the AQI might have. For instance, an AQI level of 247 from the monitoring station in Vikas Sadan, Gurugram earlier today could cause breathing discomfort to most people on prolonged exposure.
The app also features a list of more than 100 cities—108 as of now—and their corresponding AQI. There is, however, no option to search for a particular city, which is quite odd. You essentially keep scrolling down the list to find a city and its AQI data. A third feature is an AQI bulletin that shows you a comprehensive list of cities, their AQI index value, the most prominent pollutant in the area and the number of monitoring stations from where the data was collected.
A highlight feature in the SAMEER app is an option for the user to lodge pollution-related complaints. This could be anything from open garbage burning, construction and demolition activities, vehicular pollution, industrial emissions, or pollution arising from the use of generators. You can even see complaints registered by other users in your immediate vicinity—how many of them are still open, under investigation or resolved.
You can add a complaint by choosing the right category, location and then backing it up with a description and photographs. Any complaint can be tracked by seeing the history of the events and also the visual evidence attached to a complaint—an impressive feature.
The AQI calendar in the app is another interesting addition. After choosing a state, city and year, you can essentially see historical AQI-related data for a location from the last 4 years, down to specific days in a month.
That apart, there are some basic features lacking in the SAMEER app. Given that it’s highly India-specific, an option to add your favourite cities to see their AQI data regularly would have been useful. It’s a common feature in most AQI-monitoring apps. Using the SAMEER app alone might not be helpful for a user, but it can be a good companion to other comprehensive AQI apps that not only show data from India but other cities across the world.
The SAMEER app is available for free on Android and iOS