Headlines: January 19th, 2001

Environment Minister Michael Meacher is using the power of the Internet to encourage local councils to do more about air quality. Since 1997 each local authority in the UK has been carrying out a review and assessment of air quality. This involves measuring air pollution and trying to predict how it will change in the next few years. The aim of the review is to make sure that the national air quality objectives will be achieved throughout the UK by the relevant deadlines.The Department for the Environment Transport and the Regions has now launched a website http://netcen.aeat.co.uk/pages/aqmasite/lslist.html   which is an online league table of local authorities’ air quality. The site includes a map of the UK where one click brings up the information about air quality in that council area. The weakness of the system from the users point of view is that in most cases the click brings up the message ‘ no information available’. Closer examination of the site reveals that of more than 400 councils only 14 have any information to offer on line. It is thought that the Minister believes that as local residents attempt to find out about the quality of the air where they live and discover that there is no information, they will create a demand that will prompt action.