While launching the proposed new National Air Quality Index (AQI), the Union Minister of State for environment, Prakash Javadekar, said this government won’t allow a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Formulating the Index was taking the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign a step further, he said and added that that the AQI was a ‘One Number-One Colour-One Description’ for people to judge air quality.
Mr Javadekar said a team of 20 experts has created a comparable and comprehensive index to indicate the quality of air in a city and its impact on health. The AQI report will be put up on the website of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to seek public comments for 45 days after which it will be finalised.
The AQI will consider eight pollutants PM(particulate matter)10, PM 2.5, Nitrogen dioxide, Sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead and ammonia for which National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
The government had set up an expert committee following reports of Delhi having the worst air quality in the world so that India could evolve its own standards for pollution index in cities. Though the CPCB and state pollution control boards have been operating the National Air Monitoring Programme covering 240 cities, the AQI is an attempt to effectively disseminate air quality information to the people.
According to Susheel Kumar, chairperson of CPCB, “We wanted to come out with our own Index; it is a technical AQI and not a government supported one.” In the initial phase the monitoring of AQI will take place in 46 cities with a million plus population and 20 state capitals. Later it will be expanded to smaller cities. The state pollution control boards have agreed to adopt the Index, he said. There are six AQI categories – Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe -- with associated health impacts.
Mukesh Sharma, from IIT Kanpur, which conducted the technical study for the AQI, said while Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) was not part of the criteria for the AQI, the focus was on having pollutants which would impact health in a serious way. It is for the first time India will have an index for cities to determine the level of pollution and health impacts. While the earlier measuring index was limited to three indicators, the current index has been made quite comprehensive with five additional parameters.