CPCB told to audit air quality monitors in city
Highlighting issues regarding irregular and allegedly faulty air quality data, the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) on Friday asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct an audit of its air quality monitoring stations in the city.
Only two monitoring stations are operated by the CPCB in Gurugram — one in Vikas Sadan and the other in Gwal Pahari. The two collect hourly data about the city’s ambient air conditions. The national air quality index (AQI) bulletin, released by the CPCB on a daily basis, relies on this data.
However, the AQI and the primary pollutant particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) levels of the city have been sporadically missing from the CPCB’s website.
The Hindustan Times had reported on October 12 that Gurugram had been excluded from the daily AQI bulletin on 15 separate days between September 1 and October 20.
Haryana State Pollution Control Board officials have, in the past, blamed the irregularities on technical issues with the computer system. In its meeting on Friday, the EPCA pointed out that the two monitoring stations haven’t been presenting an accurate picture of the level of pollution in Gurugram as they remain out of service quite often.
Sunita Narain, EPCA member, said, “Lately, the monitoring stations have been reporting data that shows much cleaner air in the city than expected. This might be because the air is cleaner around the place where the monitoring stations are.”
“The HSPCB told us on Friday that 10 new air quality monitoring stations will be installed in the city within the next week. The EPCA has been pushing the HSPCB to install these monitors for the past two years,” she said.
An official from the HSPCB, who chose to remain anonymous, said, “We are aware that the EPCA has asked for an audit of the monitoring stations and instruments. It will be done as soon as possible. However, this is just a routine audit.”
The official added that the AQI readings were higher a few weeks ago due to illegal car parking near the Vikas Sadan monitoring station. “This was removed a couple of weeks ago and, since then, the AQI has improved,” he said.
However, scientist VK Shukla, from the CPCB’s air quality management division, said that the board hasn’t received any written communication from the EPCA yet, and would act on it when it does. He, however, confirmed that the matter was discussed in Friday’s meeting.
NEWDELHI:The next time air quality plummets in Delhi, authorities may not opt for a complete ban on construction and industrial activities across the National Capital Region (NCR), as was done in the first week of November.
Instead these activities may only be banned at ‘pollution hotspots’ initially, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) said on Friday.
“We have received a recommendation from the task force headed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that the next time air quality turns severe in Delhi, industrial activities should be shut down in those areas where the pollution levels were high. We are seriously considering this,” said Sunita Narain, member of EPCA.
Hindustan Times had earlier reported that the CPCB-headed task force had recommended a ‘hotspot-first approach’ should the air quality in Delhi enter ‘severe’ zone again. If such a location-specific clampdown fails to improve the air quality, the ban would be extended to other parts of NCR, officials familiar with the matter said. At least 15 such pollution ‘hotspots’ in Delhi and another six in the NCR towns have been identified, the official added.
In November, the EPCA had banned construction activities across Delhi-NCR for 12 days after air quality plummeted across NCR. Entry of trucks and industrial activities in Mundka were also stopped for a few days.
“Construction, industries and entry of trucks are all economic activities that cannot be banned across the city for too long a period. Hence, the proposal is to clamp down on such activities only in pollution hotspots where air quality is foulest,” a member of EPCA, who did not wish to be identified, said.
A ‘hotspot-based’ approach is however not new to Delhi. When the Graded Response Action Plan was rolled out on October 15, this year EPCA had asked at least eight of its members to visit some of the most polluted spots in the city such as Anand Vihar, Punjabi Bagh, Mundka and CRRI Mathura Road and submit reports based on observations.
On Saturday, EPCA chairman Bhure Lal will visit some polluted areas of Delhi. On Monday he will visit industrial areas of Narela and Bawana and on Tuesday he will visit Anand Vihar.
■ Garbage burning in an open field in Gurugram on Friday. EPCA says the city’s air quality monitors are inaccurate.