Chennai: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, which is one of the reputed higher education institutions in the world, was subjected to major embarrassment on Tuesday as it was ‘unfairly’ labeled as the second most polluted place in the country with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data showing PM2.5 value as 474, which is eight times higher than prescribed standard of 60 micrograms per cubic meter.
Though IIT Madras has quickly clarified that the data of CPCB was not validated, the news went viral with entire social media going abuzz wondering how that was possible considering the campus has an envious green cover.
When DC inquired into the issue, it found that whole controversy was the result of a human error. All the three CPCB ambient air quality monitoring stations in IIT, Alandur and Manali were shut down following the recent Chennai deluge. The monitoring station in IIT Madras was badly affected with its equipment contaminated with internal oxidation and high voltage fluctuations. The telephone lines were also down.
The private outsourced company, which is entrusted with the job of maintenance of the monitoring stations, began the work of stabilising the equipment on Saturday, but forgot to turn-off their link with the networking system.
So, the raw data without validation was automatically transmitted resulting in such a huge embarrassment. IIT Madras Registrar V.G. Bhooma told Deccan Chronicle that the same air quality monitoring systems projected PM2.5 vlaue as 13,000 on Tuesday morning, which is unbearable to humans. "IIT Madras campus is one of lowest polluted areas in Chennai and the campus is environment friendly. We have our own monitoring systems which record various pollutants values on hourly basis". In an official press statement, IIT Madras noted that the data uploaded through the CPCB link over the past few days (from December 12) is not reliable and cannot be taken as representation of the air quality in the city, especially the IIT campus. S.M. Shiva Nagendra of Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, said the air pollution in the campus was in fact much below the prescribed limits. The average PM2.5 value is around 30 micrograms per cubic meter. The data on air quality collected over a period of three months by ABC Techno Labs and submitted to State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) in July 2014 shows the PM2.5 value as low as 16.
CPCB clarification: As the controversy broke out, the CPCB has also instantly clarified that after the rain the monitoring station at IIT Madras was put up for warm up. All the analysers had been subjected to very high moisture and the flow path of the sampling tubes and sensors were contaminated due to internal oxidation. In addition, the software also got corrupted due to high voltage fluctuation. Hence, the entire system needs to be flushed for long time and then servicing and maintenance of each analyser and its flow paths need to be done once the maximum flushing and residues are removed. The hourly generated raw data from December 12 (after the start of the measurement) to Tuesday 10 am depicts that the monitoring station is getting stabilised and is still monitoring the performance of the analysers. Once it is stabilised, the analysers will be re calibrated and validated before they can be used for scientific interpretation. The data generated during this period cannot be treated as the true representation of ambient concentration because all analysers were under warm up and maintenance.
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