To get a comprehensive representation of air quality in the country, National Environment Commission (NEC) is working towards installing more air quality monitoring (AQM) stations in the country.

There are more than 10 AQM stations covering five dzongkhags of Bumthang, Chukha, Thimphu, Samdrupjongkhar and Trashigang today.

Among the AQM, five are automatic while others are manual.

The station at Thimphu monitors the level of measurement of particulate matter of less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10), measurement of particulate matter of less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5), Sulphur Oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, ozone and black carbon.

Pasakha station monitors level of PM2.5 while the one at Rinchending monitors PM10, PM2.5 and also ground level ozone.

The stations at Sherubtse, Bumthang and Dewathang monitor level of PM10.

However, the station at Heldara having metrological parameter monitors climate while the station at Chelela specifically monitors black carbon.

An NEC official, who did not want to be named said that the commission would gradually install equipment at the Heldara station to monitor greenhouse gases as well.

He said the commission is challenged with human and financial resources required to install more stations in the country. “If it is manually operated you need a dedicated person to operate the machine. If we install automated, it’s a huge investment.”

The commission also plans to upgrade the manual AQMs in Thimphu, Pasakha and Rinchending in Chukha, set up new automatic AQM in Chelela and Heldara (Gedu), set up new manual AQM in Dewathang and set up institutional linkages for monitoring activities with institutions such as the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) in Bumthang and Sherubtse in Kanglung, Trashigang.

A NEC official said that the sources for ambient air pollution could be from local sources such as vehicle emission, space heating through wood, kerosene and other fuels, forest fires, open burning of agricultural debris, open burning of waste, windblown dust from bare areas and construction sites, roads, mining and quarry and industrial emissions, and trans-boundary air pollution.

The official said that the measures to control local air pollution are enforced through relevant provisions of the existing legislations such as Environmental Assessment Act, Waste Prevention and Management Act (for management of wastes and debris) and the Local Government Act (for activities within municipal boundaries and local jurisdictions).

Different sectors are carrying out measures such as promotion of electric vehicles, revision of vehicle emission standards, forest fire management, improved wood stoves, and greening of urban centers. “However, these measures will need to be scaled up to generate visible impacts on air quality in the country,” the official said.

Karma Cheki