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Javadekar launches 'Air Quality Index', calls for synergy between environment and development

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18 October 2014

A synergy between the parameters of environment protection and development is extremely vital for balanced, sustainable development, minister for environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar said while launching the `National Air Quality Index' (AQI) in New Delhi on Friday.

Launching the 'National Air Quality Index' Javadekar outlined the AQI, as 'One Number-One Colour-One Description' for the common man to judge the air quality within his vicinity.

The formulation of the index was a continuation of the initiatives under Swachh Bharat Mission envisioned by the Prime Minister NarendraModi, he said.

Elaborating further, the minister stated that the index constituted part of the government's mission to introduce the culture of cleanliness. Institutional and infrastructural measures were being undertaken in order to ensure that the mandate of cleanliness was fulfilled across the country.

As a part of the process, he mentioned that clean air would be a part of peoples' campaign to take up the issue in a mission mode. In order to widen the ambit of the culture of cleanliness, the ministry proposed to discuss the issues regarding quality of air with the ministry of human resource development in order to include this issue as part of the sensitisation programme in the course curriculum.

Under the new measurement process, Javadekar said an effort had been made to include a comprehensive set of parameters. While the earlier measuring index was limited to three indicators, the current measurement index has been made quite comprehensive by the addition of five additional parameters.

He said the initiatives undertaken by the ministry recently aimed at balancing environment and conservation and development.

Air pollution has been a matter of environmental and health concerns, particularly in urban areas. The Central Pollution Control Board along with State Pollution Control Boards has been operating National Air Monitoring Programme (NAMP) covering 240 cities of the country. In addition, continuous monitoring systems that provide data on near real-time basis are also installed in a few cities.

Traditionally, air quality status has been reported through voluminous data. Thus, it was important that information on air quality is put up in public domain in simple terms that are easily understood by a common person. Air Quality Index (AQI) is one such tool for effective dissemination of air quality information to people.

An expert group comprising medical professionals, air quality experts, academia, advocacy groups, and SPCBs was constituted and a technical study was awarded to IIT Kanpur, which jointly recommended an AQI scheme.

There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately Polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.

Based on the measured ambient concentrations, corresponding standards and likely health impact, a sub-index is calculated for each of these pollutants.

The worst sub-index reflects overall AQI. Associated likely health impacts for different AQI categories and pollutants have been also been suggested, with primary inputs from the medical expert members of the group.

The AQI values and corresponding ambient concentrations (health breakpoints) as well as associated likely health impacts have also been identified for the eight pollutants.

While AQI with zero pollutants is associated with good health, pollution levels of 0-50 ambient concentration will have minimal impact on human health and are considered satisfactory.

Polution levels of 51100 ambient concentration may cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people (moderately polluted) while ambient levels of 101200 may cause breathing discomfort to people with lung disease such as asthma, and discomfort to people with heart disease, children and older adults and are considered as of poor quality.

Pollution levels with 201300 ambient concentration may cause breathing discomfort to people on prolonged exposure, and discomfort to people with heart disease (very poor) while levels of 301400 may cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases (severe).

Pollution levels with 401-500 ambient concentration may cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.

The report will also be available on CPCB's website (www.cpcb.nic.in) for 45 days to invite public views and comments. Thereafter, the AQI scheme will be finalised after evaluating the comments received and incorporating changes if any in the scheme.





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