Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hindustan Times writes "Mumbai New Pollution Capital"?

On August 24th, 2009, an article titled “Mumbai new pollution capital” was published in the Hindustan Times (HT), on the front page. The title suggests big things and sadly, I was quoted in the article.

The day I came back from trekking in the Zanskar and Ladakh ranges of the Himalayas, I was interviewed by phone for this piece. The article is based on one of my papers in the SIM-air working paper series, No.24 titled “Motorized Passenger Travel in Urban India - Emissions & Co-Benefits Analysis”, which presents the emissions analysis of the motorized “in-city” passenger travel from twenty cities in India, covering the current trends in four modes of transport (passenger cars, motorcycles, 3 wheelers, and buses), estimated energy consumption for the assumed growth patterns, and possible co-benefits of three combined scenarios (public transport, policy reforms, and non-motorized transport).

The 20 cities included in this analysis are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kanpur, Agra, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Jaipur, Surat, Pondicherry, Bhubaneswar, Panaji, Patna, Kochi, Nagpur, and Guwahati.

The paper also discussed the urban passenger travel statistics in India formerly published by the Ministry of Urban Development titled "Transport Strategies for Urban India" in May 2008.

A topic that WAS NOT discussed in the paper is the pollution ranking of the cities. This is the contentious part of the piece published in the Hindustan Times, related to the misunderstanding of the air pollution sources and the information available to the media and the media publishing the titles like “Mumbai new pollution capital” without fully understanding the material in front of them.
  1. The numbers presented in the paper are emissions only and do not translate to the pollution that one observes on the roads or residential areas or industrial zones.
  2. More importantly, the numbers presented in the paper relate only to the passenger travel and the word “pollution” encompasses a whole lot of sources from domestic to long range, which is not covered in the paper. By quoting some numbers based on one source, it is FALSE and UNETHICAL to make up titles like “Mumbai new pollution capital”.
  3. The references in the article are also false. The table quotes the number from the SIM-air working paper series and refers to it as based on CPCB data. The data used in my analysis is from multiple sources (mostly academic) and does not involve CPCB in any form in providing the data. This was clearly mentioned and the sources of the data for various cities is also discussed in the paper, and yet the HT author choose to misquote the references.
Finally, I am based in Delhi and the work presented in SIM-air working paper series is conducted as independent research @ and should not be linked or referred to the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno, USA (and NOT in New York as quoted in the HT article).

I am an affiliate assistant research professor at DRI, but DRI neither supports nor funds the research presented under the SIM-air working paper series, in any official form, which was clearly conveyed to the HT author on phone and by email.

Bottom line is that the pollution awareness and the seriousness of the multiple air pollution sources is necessary and the media can help with the public awareness in a lot of ways, but NOT by misinforming the public using partial information and shifting priorities by ranking pollution among various cities.

1 comment:

boog said...

too bad, sarath. some media people should be more careful rather than being concerned about creating a fuzz.