Pollution watch: Air quality monitors still out of order

Published: April 29, 2012

With machines busted, no mechanism in place to measure emissions of pollutants. DESIGN: RIZWAN AHMAD

LAHORE: 

Three air samplers installed by the Environment Protection Agency in Township, Town Hall on The Mall and at Gaddafi Stadium have long been dysfunctional, leaving the agency unable to assess the level of dangerous pollutants in the atmosphere, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The air samplers were installed in 2007, largely with funds of close to a billion rupees given by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the aid arm of the Japanese government. They were used to measure quantities of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and dust as well as wind velocity.

The aim of the project, apart from assessing the level of these pollutants in the atmosphere, was to get daily readings and use these to identify the largest polluters and stop them. JICA also provided funds for the operation of the machines until 2011.

Ali Abbas, laboratories deputy director of the EPA, said that the machines had not been operational for over six months.

Tauqeer Qureshi, a former EPA laboratories director, said the machines needed to be serviced every two years, but they had not been serviced a single time since they had been set up over five years ago. He said the devices had only worked intermittently since they were installed in 2007. He said that EPA officials would replace a part or two after the machines had been out of operation for a few months. He said that they had been unable to get regular.

Abbas said that tenders had been issued for the purchase of spare parts worth Rs11.5 million for the air samplers, including calibration gases (necessary to obtain accurate readings) and sulphur dioxide sensors. He said that Rs15 million had been set aside for the maintenance of the air samplers in the 2011-2012 budget. “Hopefully the samplers will be fixed and running in another two months,” he said.

Asked how the agency was monitoring air quality in the absence of the samplers, he did not answer. He said that once the samplers were fixed, they would set up a mechanism for the readings to be sent directly to the EPA website, which was in the process of being developed.

Muhammad Asim, assistant director (investigation) at the EPA, is heading the project to set up the website with the Punjab Information Technology Board. He said that he was not aware that he was supposed to set up a mechanism for the uploading of emissions readings onto the website.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.

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