Decision maker- Ministry of Earth Sciences, Delhi Pollution Control Committee
Demand: Release crucial data on sources of air pollution in Delhi NCR ahead of the peak pollution season
Update 30th October 2023
The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology’s (IITM) Decision Support System (DSS) is back with regular updates. Media reports suggest that IITM was working to improve the efficiency of DSS, and thus undergoing maintenance. Public sharing of information was halted temporarily because the two models of IITM, that is System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) and DSS, were releasing data with discrepancies between sources of pollution and forecasts. This has now been resolved.
Amid a brawl between the bureaucracy and the Delhi government, the real-time source apportionment study by IIT Kanpur has been stopped since the 18th of October. This data was published on the R-AASMAN portal everyday. In addition to this, two other agencies, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) and the Decision Support System (DSS), have stopped public sharing of the crucial pollutants since early this month. The move comes ahead of peak pollution season in the Delhi-NCR region. The two agencies are a part of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune which comes under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
The DSS used to share local sources of Delhi’s pollution daily and its 19 districts surrounding Delhi, however, now this has been restricted to only those with login IDs, reports in the Times of India have suggested. While SAFAR shared data on farm fires and the extent of their contribution to the PM2.5 levels in Delhi.
Why is this important?
Without transparent data on the sources contributing to air pollution in Delhi NCR, it will be difficult to strategize on effective, scientific solutions to mitigate emissions and other pollution causing sources. Science based air quality management systems rely on tools like source apportionment study and forecasting. Real time data empowers citizens, experts, and research organizations to understand the day-to-day variations in the contribution of pollutants.
With the worst days still looming, the inaccessibility of critical data leaves Delhi's air pollution mitigation strategies hanging by a thread.
Delhi’s Air Quality Index entered the “very poor” category earlier this week, with the AQI being recorded as 303.
Every year, especially from September onwards, Delhi-NCR’s Air Quality Index begins to deteriorate rapidly, even crossing the “hazardous” mark on some days. A grey-ish hue engulfs the air, the throat feels dry and itchy, a leaky nose is accompanied by burning eyes and headaches become a common occurrence. During this time, the levels of PM2.5 in the air surpass permissible levels as recommended by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and World Health Organization (WHO), by multiple times.
The economic, health, environmental and social costs of air pollution are massive. Reports have suggested that in India, air pollution from fossil fuels causes 980,000 pre-term births annually.
Without crucial data, any effort to tackle air pollution stands wasted.
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