WRI conference: Apathy and lack of data are biggest challenges in fighting air pollution
Lack of sufficient calibrated data and general apathy among the civic society are probably some of the biggest challenges to combating air pollution in India, say experts.
According to some experts and studies, Delhi-NCR region would need around 100 monitoring stations to detect the quality of the air residents breathe. But there are about only 30.
In fact, India’s average number of monitoring stations per major city is around two, as compared to China’s eight, or the US’s five, said Sameera Kumar Anthapur of World Research Institute (WRI) India.
In Delhi, there are six operational air quality monitoring stations run by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), and by the end of this year, 20 more stations are expected to be added on the Supreme Court’s directions. The addition will be pivotal to measuring and monitoring of air quality, which will help in the fight against pollution.
“If there is not enough data, we can’t identify the problems and propose solutions,” said Abhishek Pratap, programme director of Center for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), during a roundtable discussion about air pollution on Friday at the Connect Karo 2017 conference organised by the WRI.
But the kind of data that is available also matters a lot, said B Sengupta, former member secretary,Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Sengupta called for speciation of chemicals and pollutants, identification of pollutants that go beyond the regular particulate matter, proper training of personnel who deal with the monitors, and ensuring the monitoring devices are placed at suitable locations to give realistic readings.
The challenge does not end with monitoring and measuring, as action plans need to be constituted to ensure air quality standards are maintained.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), who was at the conference on her way back from the Supreme Court, where the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) had submitted its final draft of the comprehensive action plan to deal with air pollution in NCR, reiterated the importance of a good action plan. “Soft options are over today. We need tougher action plans,” she said.
But the best of plans will fail unless the civic society can be made a part of the conversation and they support the initiatives too; take the example of the attempts to pedestrianise Connaught Place, the experts said.
“Somehow, because of public pressure, we could not do it. People wanted to park their cars right in front of the shops... There will be a lot of good work done by a lot of good people, but unfortunately people still do not know what they want... We need to connect with the people... People do not like to skip air pollution news, but there is also a rising apathy,” said Parthaa Bosu, lead adviser India for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).