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Real-time air data okay, with rider

 

 

Times of India, New Delhi, March 20, 2015   

Jayashree Nandi


Under attack from experts and civil society organizations for its alleged bid to "validate" the city's air quality stats, the Centre has indicated that it will allow Delhi Pollution Control Committee to release its real-time data but with a rider. According to CPCB, it will also vet the data generated by DPCC and India Meteorological Department (IMD) and release the running average (average of the data coming from all monitoring stations) every hour.

 

CPCB will also analyse the air quality data of the past 24 hours and release it through DPCC the next day. CPCB chief Shashi Shekhar told TOI the additional vetting would be done according to international best practices and that the new system might be in place by March 23. But government scientists continue to raise questions about the additional vetting, terming it an "unnecessary" exercise.

 

Though the Centre has indicated that it will allow DPCC to release real-time data, it has asked the latter and IMD to send their stats to CPCB every hour and upload only the vetted data on their websites, officials said citing the minutes of a meeting held on March 10.

One of the reasons for auditing the data, according to Shekhar, is there could be a variation in data generated by two monitoring stations located close to each other. However, a scientist said, "Two stations, even if they are within 5 metres distance, cannot give the same reading. Air is a very dynamic system, emissions change, so do the readings. So this argument for vetting is technically incorrect," he said.

 

Giving the running average every hour can create confusion too, experts say. "Why are we trying to release so many sets of data. All people need to know is the real-time information on air pollution so that they can schedule their outdoor activities accordingly. I think giving additional data is unnecessary," the scientist added. Shekhar said the Centre wanted to focus on averages and analysis for the last 24 hours mainly because it's concerned about the long-term exposure to air pollution which could adversely affect people's health. But experts think otherwise. Michael Brauer, professor at School of Population and Public Health at University of British Columbia recently told TOI that even short-term exposure to very high levels of air pollution can trigger respiratory problems and strokes among the vulnerable population.

 

"Every time there is a spike in the levels on real-time monitoring, I think our scientists should check if the equipment is functioning properly or not. We also need uniform calibration protocol," Shekhar added. Another government scientist said, "It's the state's responsibility to monitor the air quality. I don't understand why does it need the Centre's ratification? Also CPCB doesn't have the technology to even vet any data." Shekhar, however, said the common calibration protocol for all stations and vetting by CPCB would be in place before PM Modi launches the air quality index (AQI) system for cities early next month. The Environment Pollution Control Authority has asked the ministry of environment, forests and climate change to clarify on the changes that it plans to introduce in the monitoring system.

 

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/pollution/Real-time-air-data-okay-with-rider/articleshow/46629040.cms