Millennium Post

Clearing the ‘Air’

Air Quality Index released recently by the government was meant to ascertain the impeding pollution problem in urban areas and also to bring clarity among masses about their state of environment.The new AQI has been hosted on the website of the Central Pollution Control Board. The AQI has been developed for six pollutants – PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide.Air pollution levels were classified in six bands with simple descriptions to help people understand. Each band has cut points of concentration with a colour code to visually express the level of severity that people can comprehend easily. Air quality is classified good if the pollution levels are at least 50 per cent below the regulatory standards.  

A recent report and its revelations of the last 6 months pollution status reveals a gory picture.With just 11 cities covered and many pollutants still amiss in the AQI revelations, it highlights that our pollution monitoring machinery is both inadequate and lacks coverage. Moreover, it brings to focus that there are many tier II cities like Varanasi and Kanpur that fares badly as compared with the expected culprit ”Delhi”. It also underscores the North-South pollution divide i.e. north having higher particulate matter and south having more toxic pollutant, a fact that corroborates high industrialisation of south and agriculturally dominant north that often overlooks norms related to infrastructure development.

Averaging across the ten pollution monitoring stations in the city, a little over a quarter of the days from January to June this year in Delhi had an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of severe (3.2 per cent), very poor (8.7 per cent) or poor (14.4 per cent). In comparison, nearly half of all days in Kanpur were of severe, very poor or poor air quality. Varanasi had no ‘severe’ days, but nearly half of all days were either of very poor or poor air quality. Averaging across its three monitoring stations, Chennai had the highest proportion of ‘severe’ days (17.7 per cent), and a third of all days were either of severe, very poor or poor air quality.

The average AQI value for the last six months for these three cities as well as Lucknow was also higher than Delhi’s.Atmospheric pollution is declared as a health hazard by WHO and AQI revelation presents a challenge to policy makers. As the enormity of pollution is ascertained by the AQI the next big challenge is to ascertain health emergencies associated with pollution and preparing our healthcare system for the same should. Simultaneously a warning system that alarms inhabitants to stay indoor as well as warms industries to contract operations be developed. On long term basis relocation of industries and developing clean and green technology is the key to combating pollution hazards.
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