WHO survey on air pollution under the scanner due to the use of obsolete data

According to the latest findings and evaluations, WHO survey on air pollution has come under the scanner with serious doubt raised on the data that got published on Thursday. The survey was called to be outdated with figures showing that data measurement for India is basically from 2013.

According to the latest released World Health Organization report on air pollution, India has come under the target with 34 Indian cities figured in the list of the 100 most polluted ones. In the top 50 most polluted 22 Indian cities found their name included in the list. WHO covered a total of 103 countries out of which the air pollution data was collected from 3000 cities in all.

Zabol in Iran was recorded as the most polluted city in the world, followed by Gwalior and Allahabad. Riyadh and Al Zubail in Saudi Arabia came fourth and fifth in the list. Patna and Raipur was also named as one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Some of the other prominent names from India that was included in the list were Delhi, Ludhiana, Varanasi, Rai bareli etc. A number of  smaller cities where development is taking place in large scale has become part of this list. Majority of the cities from India named in this list are from the western and northern region of the country.

Even though figures have shown that pollution level in Delhi has reduced in comparison to the last survey done on 2014, but the validity of the data has clearly been a question as figures was used from 2013.

In response to this Lesley Onyon, the regional advisor for WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia said, “For Delhi, the measured PM2.5 data was the most characteristic annual information for the latest year available i.e. 2013.”

Adding further to this Lesley Onyon said that when it comes to measuring air pollution in Delhi WHO is inclined towards collecting data from publicly available sources for Delhi.

Whether that is Open Government Data Platform India, Central Pollution Control Board India, Environmental Data Bank, Atmospheric Research 166: 223–232 (2015) and U.S Department of State and Mission Air Quality.

Dr D.Saha, Director and Head of Air Laboratory, CPBC throws light on whether the data of WHO was misleading. He said that present data got used for immediate local effect. Also pointing out that air pollution measurement is a long and continuous process and it will take a long while for a positive result to come out.

But there is a catch CPCB has not updated any new air pollution data since 2012. This point has also been raised by Anumita Roychowdary, Head of Centre for Science and Environment’s clean air programme.

“In 2016, we are relying on 2012 data, see the fact remains when it comes to the major cities, citizens and authorities are aware of the state of air quality. But there are some small cities where the information has not been upgraded since 2012. Also, it’s not like money has not poured for this but it clearly looks like it has is sidelined for other things,” she said.