Contrary to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Delhi is not the most polluted city in the world, says Gufran Beig, the country’s leading atmospheric scientist. According to Beig, it is the “hype” surrounding the air pollution that is harming the city more than the air itself.
“I am not convinced with the WHO rating Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. The problem is if you compare data from ITO Chowk in Delhi and a green embassy area in Beijing, Delhi will obviously be more polluted. Air quality data from one highly-polluted location does not represent air quality in the whole of Delhi,” says Beig.
“In fact, air quality of Delhi is better than that of Beijing during summer and monsoon and is comparable in winters. On Sunday when it rained, Delhi had the best air quality in the last four months.”
Beig is the project director of the country’s first ever System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), developed by Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), an autonomous body under the ministry of earth sciences.
The IITM recently launched a first-of-its-kind mobile app called SAFAR Air, which monitors air quality using a colour-coded Air Quality Index (AQI) and offers information and advisories for west, east, north, south and central Delhi. SAFAR has 10 monitoring stations across Delhi and NCR, including Noida and Gurgaon.
According to Beig, air quality in Noida is about 30% worse than in Delhi. “It is because Noida is the entry point of winds from the Indo-Gangetic plain,” says Beig, who is responsible for forecasting air quality in Delhi and Pune.
He is of firm belief that pollution forecast will go a long way in mitigating its health effects on people. “In western countries, the governments send out alerts if pollution reaches unacceptable levels. Such measures will certainly help in dealing with pollution in Delhi and other cities.”
“As scientists, we can only forecast pollution and offer advisories. The policy makers have to do the rest,” says Beig.