A committee appointed by the Delhi government has raised red flags about a study to find sources of air pollution on a real time basis, which is being done for the government by the University of Washington in St. Louis and the study is “likely to be cancelled”, multiple officials told The Hindu.
The “real time source appropriation study of air pollution in Delhi” approved by the Delhi government in 2018, was a flagship project of the government to find a solution to the air pollution, by finding what exactly is causing air pollution in the city on a real time basis.
“A three-member committee was formed to look into a report of the study submitted to the government by the university and the committee raised multiple shortcomings. Later, the university accepted most of the issues raised by the committee and the study is likely to be cancelled,” a Delhi government official said.
Environment Minister Gopal Rai is expected to take a final call on how to go forward with the study later this week.
The study, with a total cost of ₹1.2 crore, was allotted to the university on “nomination basis” without an open tender and was supposed to be completed by March, 2020.
When contacted, the Delhi government spokesperson and the Minister’s office did not comment on the “problems” with the study.
After the team from the university submitted a report to the government earlier this year, the government formed a three-member committee to look into the report.
The committee flagged multiple issues with the study, including the methodology used data generated, and it was conveyed to the team from the University in October and again in November, according to officials.
Finally, the team replied in December, the three-member committee looked into the reply too. “After looking into the reply, the committee said in its report that that the study has many limitations and it has not helped in finding sources of pollution on a real time basis,” a second official said.
The government has paid about ₹50 lakh for the study till now, which is the first two installments of the total cost of the study, according to officials. Even if the study is now done by another agency, they can use a lot of data generated from the current study, the official said.
On July 3, 2018, the Delhi cabinet headed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, had approved a proposal for the study. The study was projected by the government as a way forward to fight the air pollution in the city.
It was also important since, what causes pollution in the city has been a matter of constant debate between the city and the central government.
The Delhi government has been stating that stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is the major cause of air pollution in Delhi during winters. On the other hand, the centre has many times pointed out that local pollutants in the city are also a main reason.
In October 2019, attacking the central government over a centre-run agency’s data of a particular day that stubble burning in neighbouring states was responsible for only a maximum of 10% of Delhi’s pollution, Mr. Kejriwal said it was “baseless guesses”. He said that no one has “real source apportionment machines” and the Delhi government has asked University of Washington to do a study on it.
After the AAP government came to power in February, 2020, within days Mr. Rai, who was given the Environment Minister’s portfolio, visited a location near India Gate from where the study was being carried out.
“Obtaining real-time data is necessary to monitor the real sources of pollution at a particular point in time. Until we can gather information about the sources of pollution, we will not be able to devise any mechanism for reducing these sources. There are no generalized sources of this pollution, and so we cannot work on decreasing or eradicating this pollution in a generalized manner. We need to obtain real-time data to devise an action plan on how to reduce pollution levels,” Mr. Rai said on February 20, in the first statement from his office, after he became the Environment Minister.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi was 290 (poor) on Saturday and is likely to be in the “poor to very poor” category on Sunday.
“The cold day conditions are forecast to intensify and surface winds are forecast to slow down. AQI is forecast to stay in the poor to very poor category on Sunday and may deteriorate further from Monday,” said monitoring agency SAFAR.