Pollution control boards in India, including Delhi, are “hugely understaffed” and are unable to deal with complexities in their current framework, the head of environment research group Chintan said Saturday.
Bharati Chaturvedi, founder and director of Chintan, said monitoring capacity should be increased in coal belts and other regions of the country to determine if they are as polluted as the capital. “Delhi has a crown of disgrace on its head, because we say we are one of the most polluted cities in the world. But we don’t know that as we don’t have enough monitoring in other parts,” Chaturvedi said.
Sanjeev Khirwar, the Delhi environment secretary, confirmed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has been facing staff shortage.
“These shortages have been there for years. We are trying to fill the vacancies. Having less staff affects the fieldwork being done to ensure the regulations are followed, and also impacts our studies,” he said.
Chaturvedi said: “Our pollution control boards don’t have the time or the capacity. The world is becoming more complex and our boards are unable to deal with it in the current framework.”
Delhi was ranked the world’s most polluted capital, as per a Greenpeace report this year. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report released in 2018 stated that 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India.
Air quality data collected by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in Delhi at present is based on more than 30 monitoring stations on average, which is significantly higher than many other cities in the country.
Studies have linked air pollution to respiratory problems and shortened lifespan. A joint study by the Centre for Chest Surgery and the Lung Care Foundation between March 2012 and June 2018 found 50% of the 150 patients surveyed were non-smokers. “Nearly 1:1 ratio of non-smokers and smokers point towards environmental factors like air pollution as a major causative agent,” the study said.
Dr Harshvardhan Puri of the Lung Care Foundation said: “Politicians must pay heed even if the studies are from countries like the US or China, as our air quality is much poorer than theirs.”