By Alex Ruppenthal

Breathing the air in the Indian capital of Delhi is equivalent to smoking nearly 50 cigarettes a day. Yet the Indian government continues to face criticism for failing to address the public health crisis stemming from air pollution, which kills two Indians every minute and more than one million per year.

Nearly 7,500 miles away, two students at the University of Chicago are designing an app they think will arm Indians with the information and platform needed to confront the deadly problem.

Pavan, which means “air” in Hindi, is an app that its creators say will provide real-time pollution data that users can track via map, similar to how weather apps function. The app will also offer air pollution forecasts and other features that let users share photos and information with each other and even submit air quality reports to environmental regulators.

“We want it to be really easy for you to just take a glance and see, ‘Oh, it’s green today – it’s fine,’” said Shaili Datta, a senior economics major and one of Pavan’s co-founders. “Or, ‘Oh, it’s purple – it’s really bad. I should wear a mask.’”

Both Datta and co-founder Preethi Raju lived in India for parts of their childhood. Raju remembers having trouble breathing while living in the eastern Indian city of Chennai. Datta, meanwhile, saw the impact of Delhi’s notoriously dirty air on her grandmother, who suffers from acute bronchitis.

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