EPA disseminates unrealistic data on air quality index


LAHORE: With the Punjab Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failing to measure the accurate data of air quality in the city, the negligence of the agency towards environmental issues seems to be never-ending.

Even though the provincial capital has been in the grasp of high-level pollution for the past few years, the EPA appears to be committed to deceiving the authorities as well as the citizens despite serious concerns of the apex court, Pakistan Today has observed.

As per the details, to measure the air quality index of the city, Punjab EPA procured five air quality monitoring stations (airpointers) in June 2017 worth Rs86 million. During the year 2016, it also procured one airpointer (nephelometry) worth rupees 21 million.

According to the rules, these airpointers are to be installed soon after they are procured but the EPA remained reluctant in this regard, however, in the wake of the second spell of toxic smog which engulfed the city in October 2017, the EPA installed these airpointers at five spots including the UET, GT Road, Met Office Jail Road, EPD Headquarters Gulberg, Agriculture Department’s office Thokar Niaz Baig and the Landfill Site.

Sources in EPA told that the department, since the installation of the airpointers, had been unable to obtain realistic data as the equipment was sub-standard and not calibrated to measure the air quality index properly.

“The aim to procure the equipment was to measure basic parameters of ambient air quality; particulate matters (PM10 and PM 2.5), Ozone (O3), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitric Oxides (NO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) but the data being updated at the EPA’s website is quite unrealistic,” they said.

Stating the reason behind the misappropriation of data, they said that the equipment was not measuring the most important parameters, PM2.5 and PM10.

It is pertinent to mention here that EPA in its own report of air quality data which it monitored in 2014-15 stated that the values of PM2.5 had exceeded five times in the city but the recent data depicts the state of air quality has become even better than that of Norway and Switzerland.

A senior official in the EPA, while seeking anonymity, revealed that the data being updated by the EPA was unrealistic as it was forged and self-generated. He said that the EPA could not measure the accurate data since it procured the airpointers that were sub-standard.

“EPA should display real-time data on the website instead of manually feeding bogus data,” he said while adding that the EPA Director Monitoring, Lab & Implementation (ML&I) Tauqir Qureshi was responsible to produce accurate air quality data.

This correspondent tried to contact Tauqir Qureshi, but despite several calls, he did not respond.

The spokesman of EPA Naseemur Rehman Shah was also reached for a comment but he was unavailable.