Experts say five air quality monitoring stations not enough, seek 3 more


Gurgaon: Since Sunday, the district’s air quality has been recorded at a moderate level with an air quality index (AQI) between 101 and 200. While the air quality is expected to deteriorate further post-Diwali, experts pointed out that the data was based on just the five Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Systems (CAAQMS) – real-time monitoring network monitors – that covers its 1,258 sq km area.
Neighbouring Delhi with an area of 1,484 sq km has 38 air quality monitors, experts say while stressing on the need for more air monitors – at least 32 as per the district’s geographical area — to record pollutants, analyse air quality and create a database for mitigation measures.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) air quality network guidelines, however, state that monitoring stations are installed on the basis of the population. Areas with 10,00,000 to 50,00,000 population, it states, should have a minimum of five CAAQMS and three manual monitors. As per Census 2011, the district has a population of 15.1 lakh.
“As per the 2003 CPCB rule of the thumb for determining the number of monitoring stations, it should have a minimum of eight monitoring stations. It is important to note that the monitoring network should be representative and cater to different monitoring objectives like tracking improvements in air quality and providing real-time insights to the public,” Tanushree Ganguly, programme lead of Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), told TOI.
Experts also emphasised on the need for a mix of both manual and automatic air quality monitoring stations. Manual stations, experts say, provide data for critical pollutants like PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, ozone and CO, which are considered for Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) implementation as they have serious short-term health impacts (in addition to longer-term ones) on those suffering from cardiac and respiratory conditions and asthma. These pollutants, experts add, have an immediate trigger effect during smog episodes.
“In fact, the existing CPCB standards speak of a combination of CAAQMS and manually operated stations, however, except for the ITO station in Delhi that is operated by CPCB, probably no other station in the entire country fulfils the norms. It also must be remembered that CAAQMS stations are for instantaneous data but manual stations data is particularly used to measure toxicity levels and health impact studies,” Dr Dipankar Saha, former CPCB head, said.
The five AQI stations, experts also said, were not properly distributed across the district. The AQI station at Gwalpahari is run by the India Meteorological Department, while the stations at Vikas Sadan, Teri Gram, Sector-51 and Manesar for calculating the daily AQI come under the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB). These stations, however, do not cover all zones of the district and thus do not give an ideal picture when calculating the data.
“More stations should be set up in areas where most people live, the pollutants they are exposed to and the need for a daily alert system. The variations between different areas of the city need to be factored in. As of now, the three stations at Gwalpahari, Sector-51 and Teri Gram are on one side of the city while Vikas Sadan only gets data from the old city. Thus, the stations are not ideally located,” Sachin Panwar, a city-based independent air quality scientist, said.
Shubhansh Tiwari, research associate at Amity Center for Air Pollution Control, meanwhile, pointed out that the maintenance of the monitoring stations was also not well systematic.
When approached, HSPCB officials said they will install new stations according to priorities. “Of course, we will be expanding our network of stations according to our priorities and requirements. We may not be establishing a new station this season. Will review the requirement and establish thereafter,” S Narayana, HSPCB secretary, said.
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