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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. 😉

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india’s coal boom and attendant air quality fears…

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

An updated version of the air quality story

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.

On the proposed Air Quality Index (and flaws therein)

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.

This story, as things stand, is a followup to another story on air quality published about ten days ago. You need to, if you haven’t already, read the first one. Its PDF and, here, a link.

ps: Yesterday was diwali. And, while surfing to see how air quality was faring, I saw some eye-popping numbers. See these.

numbers from the civil lines air quality station, run by the delhi pollution control committee, as of 2215 hrs, yesterday. pm10 at 1000 (safety limit: 100). pm 2.5 at 995 (safety limit: 60). shortly afterwards, pm 2.5 climbed close to 1000 as well, reaching 999.85.

numbers from the civil lines air quality station, run by the delhi pollution control committee, as of 2215 hrs, yesterday. pm10 at 1000 (safety limit: 100). pm 2.5 at 995 (safety limit: 60). shortly afterwards, pm 2.5 climbed close to 1000 as well, reaching 999.85.

look at this chart. the way pm10 levels max out at 1000 suggests that the sensor might be set up to capture levels only till 1000 micrograms/cu m (understandably, given the safe limit is 60). i wonder what was the real extent of particulate pollution yesterday.

look at this chart. the way pm10 levels max out at 1000 suggests that the sensor might be set up to capture levels only till 1000 micrograms/cu m (understandably, given the safe limit is 60). i wonder what was the real extent of particulate pollution yesterday.

i have a fairly high degree of comfort with dpcc data. less so with the cpcb and spcbs. the cpcb, last night, was ridiculous. its sites were presenting allegedly realtime data for 2013 for parts of delhi. as for the spcbs, most of them were well below delhi. but one number from ahmedabad really made me sit up. look at pm2.5.

i have a fairly high degree of comfort with dpcc data. less so with the cpcb and spcbs. the cpcb, last night, was ridiculous. its sites were presenting allegedly realtime data for 2013 for parts of delhi. as for the spcbs, most of them were well below delhi. but one number from ahmedabad really made me sit up. look at pm2.5.

Why India’s numbers on air quality cannot be trusted

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?

Not very. To know why, click here. A PDF of the superb page my colleagues designed. And here, a link to the story.