‘Our AQI monitors are not inaccurate’
In an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times, B S Murthy, scientist and director of SAFAR, refuted the BMC’s claims on inaccuracy in the monitors that record levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and ozone, and read the air quality index (AQI) in the city
MUMBAI: The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has contested the BMC report that its SAFAR air-quality monitors in the city do not conform to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines and hence should be shifted. The institute claimed that the BMC report had “no scientific basis”.
Mumbai has nine SAFAR air-quality monitoring stations managed by the Pune-based IITM, an autonomous institute under the ministry of earth sciences.
In an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times, B S Murthy, scientist and director of SAFAR, refuted the BMC’s claims on inaccuracy in the monitors that record levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and ozone, and read the air quality index (AQI) in the city. IITM has requested a joint scientific audit of all AQI monitors, including those of MPCB and the BMC, located at 25 locations in Mumbai.
“We cross-checked the data for October and found nothing wrong with any of the SAFAR monitors,” said Murthy. “These monitors have been there since 2015. The locations were provided by the BMC itself. How is it that after so many years, they say the locations are wrong?”
Stating that IITM has followed WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) guidelines, which are also followed by the CPCB, Murthy said that CPCB guidelines were idealistic and it was not possible to follow all the conditions. “We have to understand the way a city functions,” he said. “For example, one CPCB condition is that there should be continuous air flow at the location, but in a city like Mumbai with so many skyscrapers, this is not possible at all spots.”
The director added that the very purpose of installing the monitors was to understand the air that people were breathing. “If people are living in an industrial area or in close proximity to routine traffic congestion, they should know what they are breathing,” he said. “In this way, data from all monitors reflects the overall (average) air quality of Mumbai.”
Murthy maintained that the SAFAR monitors ought not to be shifted just because a construction site was located close by. “If waste is being burned near a particular station, it will reflect in the readings,” he said. “The very purpose of the monitor is to record pollutant levels in the air. And it is the duty of the civic body to ensure that so much pollution does not happen.”
HT on November 4 had reported on the BMC’s report on SAFAR monitors which stated that four of the nine monitors violated CPCB guidelines and thus should be shifted.
“There can be allegations but the data speaks for itself,” said Murthy. “We have requested a joint scientific audit of all AQI monitors in Mumbai, including that of MPCB. There has to be hard evidence in what BMC is saying. SAFAR has also requested the civic body to share detailed data of MPCB and BMC monitors stationed near SAFAR locations so that the readings can be compared.”
Murthy pointed out that the environment ministry had asked IITM to install the monitors in Mumbai because the BMC did not have scientists. “It is also the responsibility of the BMC to protect these monitors after they are installed,” he said. “We have faced issues like cables being cut due to construction work, AC units being stolen and so on.”
The SAFAR director reiterated that the BMC needed to back its report with scientific evidence. “If they provide evidence, we will shift the monitors, for which BMC will have to provide us with land and infrastructure,” he said.
A BMC official told HT that a joint meeting was expected soon between senior BMC and IITM officials to resolve the issue.