After a gap of 16 years, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has notified the Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards which provide a legal framework for the control of air pollution and the protection of public health.
The revised standards that also include initiatives developed in consonance with global best practises and latest advancements in technology and research incorporate several salient features. These include doing away with area classification based on land-use so that industrial areas have to conform to the same standards as residential areas and uniform application of standards with the exception of stringent ones for NO2 and SO2 in the Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
The previous standards for residential area have been uniformly applied for fine particulate matter, Carbon Monoxide and Ammonia while more stringent limits are prescribed for Lead, SO2 and NO2. Also, the suspended particulate matter (SPM) as a parameter gets replaced by fine particulate matter, as it is seen as more relevant for public health. Another aspect of the revision includes inclusion of Ozone, Arsenic, Nickel, Benzene and Benzo(a)Pyrene for the first time under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
While not notifying Mercury as part of these revised standards, it was stated that the Union Ministry was conscious of the need to monitor the same and notes that work in standards setting and standardisation of monitoring protocol for the same was in progress internationally.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was also in the process of creating a road map for the generation and maintenance of a database, monitoring of required infrastructure and for the development of protocols. It was also added that the Ministry was in the process of developing additional support systems of enforcement such as the National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA) and the National Green Tribunal (NEPA) to ensure effective enforcement of the standards.