The Indian government announced this week that it would be centralizing air quality readings in its capital for “authentication” before making them publicly available. The New York Times reports:
A statement issued on Tuesday by India’s environment ministry said, “The unified system, expected to be in position in maximum two weeks’ time, will ensure authentic air quality information of Delhi to public at large.” The change is intended to ensure that the many government departments monitoring Delhi’s air “follow a uniform scientific calibration protocol and validation process.”But B. Kumar, who retired in 2013 as an official of the Delhi pollution committee and who helped create the present monitoring method, said on Wednesday that the system had worked well. […]The new policy requires that Delhi’s data be sent for authentication to the Central Pollution Control Board, overseen by the national government, Mr. Kumar said. “They just don’t want people to see the actual data,” he said. Mr. Kumar said no one works at the central board at night or on weekends, which he said would result in long delays before the information was made public.
This has, of course, drawn criticism from a host of observers. From environmental groups to concerned Indian citizens, many sense the stink of potential malfeasance that surrounds this new policy. Taking air quality measurements isn’t a terribly complicated process, and building redundancies into instrument systems can help cut out the potential outlier readings that the Indian government is apparently so concerned about.New Delhi’s air pollution is a serious and deadly problem, and one that certainly deserves the government’s full attention. But this plan to privately centralize readings before publicly disseminating them is at best an opaque and ham-handed attempt to solve a problem, and at worst a play to censor data that has very real health consequences for millions of Indian citizens.