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Move afoot to 'dress up' Delhi's air pollution data?

                                                                                                     The Times of India, New Delhi, 10th March, 2015

 

Jayashree Nandi,

 NEW DELHI: Under watch across the world over the alarming quality of air in its national capital, are Indian authorities trying to shoot the messenger?

 

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee, which runs a real-time air pollution monitoring system, has been rapped for releasing "raw" or "unedited" air quality data on its website. In a meeting last week, the Union environment ministry has decided that DPCC's data will be "validated" by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and "quality control" mechanisms put in place before it is released online.

 

The decision appears strange because automatic air quality monitoring usually doesn't require any editing. While it defeats the purpose of having a real-time monitoring system because any vetting would delay the process, experts also fear that the edited data may be "dressed up" and not give the true picture.

 

DPCC releases real-time data from six stations: RK Puram, Civil Lines, Punjabi Bagh, Mandir Marg, Anand Vihar and IGI. It's the only state agency in India to provide real-time feed from so many station and for a wide range of pollutant such as PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, CO, ozone and benzene.

 

The portal stopped updating data at 11.40am on Monday. While there are often technical glitches because of which data is not available, this time the reason appeared to be more serious. Sources in DPCC told TOI that the agency was under "pressure" after NGOs, research organizations and international bodies such as World Health Organization highlighted how air pollution in Delhi had reached alarming proportions.

 

Some also pointed out that DPCC's data was unavailable on several days while Beijing's monitoring system was more regular and superior.

 

"The data has been stopped because there is too much scrutiny of what's being released online. We are pulled up for it," said an official. "The data may not even be available anymore as it will soon have to be validated before release."

 

Another official from CPCB confirmed that a meeting was held on March 4, in which the environment ministry decided that a protocol will be put in to place for releasing the data.

 

"Unedited data will not be released. The figures will be validated either by us or a team of scientists. There will be quality control. We have to work out a new system by March 20," the official said.

 

Strangely, CPCB itself doesn't have a real time air quality monitoring system and only a few of its stations monitor PM2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) which is a notorious pollutant in Delhi. PM2.5 is considered dangerous because it is tiny enough to enter the blood stream and get lodged in people's lungs.

 

Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)'s clean air programme, said the agencies should focus on providing "accessible, transparent and relevant data". "We need a real time data reporting system for the entire country," she asserted.

 

The WHO in its urban air quality database had ranked Delhi as the world's most polluted city. Delhi's average PM2.5 level in 2013 was 153 microgram per cubic metres, based on hourly measurements at six different stations. This is 15 times the safe limit according to the WHO guideline and 3.8 times the national standard.

 

Source:- http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/pollution/Move-afoot-to-dress-up-Delhis-air-pollution-data/articleshow/46509862.cms