Don’t use central funds for air quality monitors in 131 cities, says CPCB
The order, issued on November 22, is likely to hamper air quality monitoring in cities with sparse real-time monitors, including several cities in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) that record high air pollution levels
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has written to 131 non-attainment cities (which did not meet the particulate matter standard for 5 years) asking them to stop procurement of Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring (CAAQM) systems using Central funds.
The order, issued on November 22, is likely to hamper air quality monitoring in cities with sparse real-time monitors, including several cities in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) that record high air pollution levels.
There are 374 CAAQMS in the country according to CPCB.
“We are not sure how many cities have placed work orders for more procurements. This direction has to be followed by all non-attainment cities that were getting funds for air pollution control,” a CPCB official said.
In the IGP region, some cities have between two and five real time monitors. Kanpur, for example, has four monitors; Punjab’s Bathinda has one station; entire Jharkhand has one station; Gurugram and Faridabad have only four stations.
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The letter states that no fresh work orders should be issued to procure CAAQM systems under central funds.
“If procurement is at a stage where funds have not been transferred then no further transfer of funds should be done; if funds have already been transferred to procure CAAQMs, then the matter should be referred to the Union environment ministry for taking a view,” it added.
“We have issued this order because right now, we want to focus on control of air pollution and not on procuring expensive equipment. Soon, the National Physical Laboratory will start certifying indigenous monitoring devices which can be procured then. The state governments can procure CAAQMS with their own funds if they want,” said a senior CPCB official familiar with the matter.
However, experts said that if NPL certification is a must, then its roll-out should be ramped up soon.
“The way forward is to expand real time monitoring of all criteria pollutants and we need real time dissemination of data. If we do not have real-time data, we cannot calculate air quality index (AQI) or take air pollution control decision in real-time. Certification needs to be geared up to enable investment in properly certified monitors,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment.
The Centre had launched a National Clean Air Programme in 2019 by the to curb air pollution in Indian cities. NCAP has an aim to reduce PM 10 and PM 2.5 pollution by 20 to 30% over 2017 levels by 2024. It is being implemented in 131 cities Non-Attainment Cities which did not meet air quality standard for 5 consecutive years.