AI could help detect unregulated sources of air pollution in South Asia

A collaboration between the University of Oxford and Lahore University of Management Sciences has combined the power of artificial intelligence with remote satellite imagery to help tackle the problem of unregulated brick kilns across South Asia. These kilns are a major source of air pollution, a key contributor to climate change, and notorious for people trafficking and modern-day slavery.

The project focused on the ‘Brick-Kiln-Belt’ of South Asia, a corridor which stretches across parts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Over 55,000 brick kilns are thought to be in this region, many of which are unregulated, small-scale industries. Although a major source of employment, these kilns are a significant source of air pollution, including smog harmful to human health. They are also responsible for a large proportion of modern-day slavery and child labour, and cause severe environmental impacts through soil degradation and water extraction.

Brick kiln University of Oxford

With the Brick Kiln Belt spanning 1.5 million km2 and crossing country borders, it would be impossible for law enforcers in these resource-poor areas to monitor it using ‘on the ground’ methods alone. An alternative approach is to identify the distinct shape of brick kilns from aerial images captured by satellites. Doing this manually, however, is highly time-consuming and prone to error. Although some studies have applied machine learning to aerial images to try to detect illegal brick kilns automatically, none have so far produced a highly scalable solution.

Read full Article at University of Oxford News