India’s cities may be battling high toxicity in the air, but the national pollution watchdog doesn’t seem to be putting up enough of a fight.
A government audit shows the Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB) did not install monitoring stations on time despite having the budget for two major air quality management programmes that could have helped the states fight rising air pollution more aggressively.
The pollution watchdog received Rs 24 crore in 2010 for the two projects: the first was to develop a web-based air quality database and a decision support system for better management of air quality in urban areas; the second was to set up 30 air quality monitoring stations across eight states and in 43 critically polluted industrial clusters in 16 states.
The audit by the office of the principal director of audit (scientific department) found the project failed to meet the deadline while average air pollution in cities has increased by about 15%, pushing 13 Indian cities into WHO’s list of most polluted in the world in 2014.
“The project to be completed by 2012-13 has still not been completed,” said the audit. The auditors also said it showed that the CPCB was not monitoring the progress of the project on a regular basis.
The audit, which was disclosed under the RTI law, also blamed the CPCB for failing to impose a penalty on another central government organisation, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), for failing to prepare the software to implement the online air quality management system for urban areas on time.
With regard to setting up monitoring stations in polluted industrial clusters, the audit said the CPCB delayed release of funds to state governments.
Government sources admitted that had the project been implemented on time, the CPCB would have been in a better position to advise state governments on air quality management. “The CPCB would have identified critically polluted areas in the upcoming cities had the project been executed,” a senior government official said.