Monitoring Sri Lanka’s Air Quality

Cindy Mayes
March 14, 2022

In 2019, health and science experts in Australia and Sri Lanka joined forces to install ten state-of-the-art, low-cost air quality monitors called KOALAs (Knowing Our Ambient Local Air). Two of these monitors were installed in the capital city, Colombo, and the other eight in the second largest city of Kandy.

A KOALA monitor installed in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The project is being carried out under a collaborative arrangement between the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the Centre for AirPollution Energy and Health Research Australia and Sri Lanka’s NationalInstitute of Fundamental Studies, University of Peradeniya, National ScienceFoundation and Mobitel.

Preliminary data has indicated that particle (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) pollution levels in these cities are about 3-4 times higher than in Australian cities.

A KOALA monitor in the Blue Mountains, Australia

The project relies on advanced sensor technologies, data transmission and analysis methods and draws on expertise from all the universities and government agencies involved in it.

The COVID-19 restrictions provided an ideal situation to assess the impact of human activity on the air quality in Sri Lanka as a nation-wide curfew was in place since 20 March 2020. Data showed that the 24-hour averagePM2.5 and CO levels in Colombo dropped by 34% and 49%, respectively. The corresponding decreases in Kandy were 25% and 36%, respectively. These results indicate how much of the air pollution in the two cities are produced by human activities.

The project is being led by Distinguished Professor Lidia Morawska, Director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality andHealth at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

QUT scientist Distinguished Professor LidiaMorawska, who has been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential peoplein the world for her air quality research

Find out more about the KOALAs project on the QUT website.