As India celebrated Diwali on Thursday, the environment ministry’s efforts to capture changes in air quality were spotty at best – with the information either inadequate or simply outdated. Given such lapses in data gathering, it’s anyone’s guess what kind of air most Indians were sucking into their lungs. In Delhi, at about 10 pm, the “real time” air quality data on the website of the Central Pollution Control Board was anything but real time. Its station at Civil Lines in north Delhi, for instance, reported air quality numbers captured on September 12, 2013. It’s not clear why the system failed to provide updated numbers.
today’s et carries an updated version of the air quality story published yesterday — the story got reworked once i got the cpcb’s answers. as things stand, its answers resolved some of the questions in the previous avatar of the story and triggered newer ones. do take a look. and, here, the q&a with the cpcb on the air quality index.
all this is a followup to a story that appeared about ten days ago — on why india’s air quality data is garbage. you must see that.
About six days ago, India released a draft Air Quality Index. The idea is unexceptionable. The Index seeks to make air quality more easily comprehensible by reporting air quality not as dry numbers of raw concentrations but as colour-coded assessments of health impacts — good, moderate, poor, very poor, hazardous, etc. In this story out today, I argue, however, that for the index to be useful, fundamental problems in air quality assessments need to be fixed first.
ps: Yesterday was diwali. And, while surfing to see how air quality was faring, I saw some eye-popping numbers. See these.
Today’s ET carries a story on Chandasi – also spelt as Chandausi. It is a mandi — like the agri markets of India — but one dealing in coal. It is a fascinating place. Its architecture is similar to that of a farm mandi even though the commodities the two trade in are so different. It corrects a state failure — inability to supply coal to small businesses — but does so by sourcing illegal coal. Which makes it a benign institution. But it is also malign. The mandi is mired in local mafias, coal syndicates and what have you. And so, while the illegal enterprises supplying coal to the mandi make pots of money, the labour, the buyers, some of the traders, lead marginal existences.
also see these, my photos from the field while reporting on coalgate.
For some time now, India has been putting out her air quality numbers. Visit the website of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) or the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and you will find them. In the odd city, you will see LED displays giving real-time updates on air quality in the city. How accurate are these numbers?
Has the Union health ministry misled Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the AIIMS CVO matter? On August 23, health secretary Lov Verma sent a detailed note to the PMO on why Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service officer who had uncovered several scams while posted in Haryana, had been removed from the post of Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi. The note, which followed Modi’s phone conversation with health minister Harsh Vardhan on the matter, adds fuel to the controversy surrounding Chaturvedi’s abrupt removal because it contains apparent contradictions in the ministry’s own position and is silent about a BJP Member of Parliament who had sought his dismissal.
india’s subservient bureaucrats, so eager to ingratiate themselves to power.
yesterday, on the day mahatma gandhi was born, the indian government unveiled its latest mantra. ministers were out sweeping streets, saying that india needs to be cleaned. it is anyone’s guess if this new mission will fizzle out or stick around and make a difference. saying that televised tokenism is not enough, i wrote this little column on tackling the waste problem.