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No city is an island: Lessons from Delhi’s odd-even experiment

The Delhi government’s 15-day odd-even initiative to contain vehicular emissions has made little or no difference to air quality in the capital, The Hindu reported last week.

The report claims that peak pollution levels during the first week of the scheme – which moved cars with odd licence plates off the streets on alternate days – are “either comparable or just slightly lower” than the high levels observed from the beginning of December.

This is not surprising. The odd-even rule wasn’t a bad idea. But the pollutants floating around in Delhi’s poisonous air are not generated by the city alone

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Why farmers burn their fields in Punjab despite knowing that it worsens the fog over north India

A new threat for Delhi’s air quality monitoring systems

On Tuesday, the Indian government announced a big change in how the people of Delhi get their air quality data.

So far, the three agencies monitoring air quality in the city – the Central Pollution Control Board, the Indian Meteorological Department and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee – collect and disseminate their numbers separately. The Indian Meteorological Department  has digital displays across the city. The Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee put their numbers online.

But in the new system, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the Indian Meteorological Department  will stop making their numbers public. Instead, their data will be sent to the Central Pollution Control Board for analysis. “Authenticated air quality information will be communicated to Delhi Pollution Control Committee on daily basis for further dissemination to the public at large,” the government statement said.

Coming at the end of a year where Delhi came to be known as one of the most polluted cities in the world, the announcement has been greeted with suspicion. 

And with this, drumroll, I open my account at Scroll.in. 😉

india’s coal boom and attendant air quality fears…

can self-certification control emissions?

A high-level committee headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian has, among other things, proposed a radical overhaul of how India ensures compliance with environmental clearances. Arguing that the present system, built around physical inspection by government employees, has created a rent-seeking ‘inspector raj’, the committee — which was set up by the government to review environment-related laws — has proposed an “utmost good faith clause”… In both environmental and industry circles, there is scepticism about the proposal.

The good faith clause is built on the assumption that industry will provide data which might be used against it. In this story, I argue the system will, ergo, get gamed.

Why people fretting about Delhi’s low air quality are missing the bigger picture

In May this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that Delhi’s air quality is the worst in the world. In the months that followed this perception about Delhi’s air has strengthened further as winter smog set in the capital. This perception, however, could be incorrect. Air quality of other Indian cities and towns could be worse than Delhi’s. That is because the air quality information being generated by the state and central pollution control boards is badly flawed, and we don’t have credible information about air quality in any place other than the capital.

On India’s air monitoring during Diwali