The principal reason for the D-NOSES project is to help people. People who are exposed to constant odours, whose impact has a direct effect on their lives and health. The innovative methods developed in the project are already based on the wide experience of our Odour and Citizen Science experts. As with anything new, it must be tested and refined, and that is what has been done in the pilot case studies conducted across Europe and the world.
When selecting the pilots, it was important to choose carefully and consider the possibility to both test and learn from each case. Several different scenarios were chosen to investigate the methods suitability and effectiveness in different situations.
Tackling different odour problems
In some cases, it can be difficult to assess where the problem really comes from. Odours can be notoriously difficult to identify and link to any particular source. Some of the pilots were chosen specifically to test the ability to differentiate the impact of multiple sources, such as in Barcelona where the Forum Area is surrounded by around 6 possible odour sources. Stakeholder engagement was undertaken in an area where diverse social realities cohabit with the same odour issues historically and engagement methods were adapted therein in order to be inclusive. The data collected has been useful in better understanding the problems and the main sources of annoyance for residents. This now allows for more targeted solutions and discussions to alleviate the problem.
In Portugal, the Rio Tinto has become one of the most polluted rivers in the region – largely due to suspected illegal discharges into the water. The discharges come with a smell, and so registering odour events could help identify the source of the illegal dumps. The pandemic has slowed down progress so far, but the concept has gained traction and has led to the creation of the Guarda Rios, a group of citizens dedicated to monitoring the odours and health of the river.
In Sofia, the municipality had already started with a food waste and bio-bin collection program to help alleviate odour issues across the city and centred around food catering sites. As with all new processes, it needs monitoring and improvement. Large scale data collection was done across the city and sources of food waste to regularly measure the levels of odours and impact, leading to improved collection frequency and times to lower the nuisance on neighbours and passing tourists.
Tackling different contexts
In Italy a pilot was chosen in a region that already had good legislation and policies in place to deal with odour issues. While analysing a complex specific situation in Lombardy, two things became clear. The data collected suggested that there might be an unidentified and unexpected source of odour impact at play in the area, that will be investigated further. Also, it was apparent that despite the good regulations and action plans in place in case of odour issues, no action was taking place. The pilot identified the problem as a lack of data necessary to kick off the process. This was then largely in line with the project’s own stance of the critical importance of collecting transparent and valid data that can be used to demonstrate the issue and form the basis for a factual discussion on the possible resolutions.
At the other extreme, a pilot was conducted in Kampala, Uganda. Like any city there are odours of all sorts, and some of them unpleasant. There is however ineffective policy and legislation to regulate odour pollutiont. The D-NOSES team came in with the aim of introducing a newmethod that would allow the local government to better manage the reporting of odours. There was full awareness of the main activities responsible for odour issues and the proposed methodology was officially recognised as a valid approach that could help create an evidence base to direct scarce resources. The team was also able to contribute to the first draft air quality regulations in Uganda.. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we successfully engaged over 300 students who followed a newly devised school’s program covering topics ranging from measuring odours to perception mapping This will help to create a new generation of environmentally aware citizens, and more important still, a generation that will have the knowledge and feel empowered to tackle these pressing environmental issues as they become adults.
In Chile, the pilot was conducted in a place called Los Alamos, a small rural community with a waste installation next door. The people living in the area face significant socio-economic challenges, so the standard protocols for citizen science that can be employed in more advanced areas cannot be used without shutting out a large section of the affected population. In this case it was necessary to use the D-NOSES methods as part of the solution in combination with more traditional odour studies. This experience reinforces the idea that these new methods are complementary to existing ones, adding to the toolbox of odour experts as well as all stakeholders interested in resolving odour issues.
The pilot case studies have been crucial to prove the D-NOSES methodology in the real world. The overall take away from the pilots was that while not always successful in resolving the odour issues, each pilot did bring the situation forward in some meaningful and constructive way enhancing the dialogue amongst quadruple helix stakeholders and placing citizens concerns at the top. The many different contexts and applications in the pilot case studies also hints at the flexibility of the method and its ability to tackle different situations – it would seem it is only limited by the creativity of the stakeholders engaged.