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New tool launched to create awareness about quality of air

New Delhi: Amid concerns over rising pollution in Indian cities, a new tool was launched today that aims to create awareness among people about the quality of air they breathe as well as its likely health impact.

The national Air Quality Index (AQI) launched by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar proposes six AQI categories, namely good, satisfactory, moderately polluted, poor, very poor and severe and is likely to be operational initially in the country's million plus cities by mid-December.

Narendra Modi
Narendra  Modi

Noting that the formulation of the index was a continuation of the initiatives under Swachh Bharat Mission envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Javadekar said the government would make clean air also a people's campaign.

"It won't be business as usual. In future we will act differently, we will succeed and we will take people along," he said. "This Air Quality Index is now open we are starting with million plus cities but definitely will go further deeper and we will start simultaneous action programmes in collaboration with states," he said.

Javadekar outlined the AQI, which has categories with elegant colour scheme beginning from green and ending in dark red, as 'One Number- One Colour-One Description' for the common man to judge the air quality within his vicinity.

The objective of an AQI is to quickly disseminate air quality information almost in real-time that entails the system to account for pollutants which have short-term impacts, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said. 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.

Eight pollutants having short-term standards have been considered for near real-time dissemination of AQI. AQI, a CPCB initiative, was developed by an expert group comprising medical professionals, air quality experts, academia, NGOs, and state pollution control boards. IIT Kanpur, which conducted the technical study, and the expert group have recommended the AQI scheme.

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. Javadekar said that the index constituted part of the government's mission to introduce the culture of cleanliness. In order to widen the ambit of the culture of cleanliness, the ministry proposed to discuss the issues concerned regarding quality of air with the HRD Ministry in order to include this topic as part of the sensitisation programme in the course curriculum.

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

Under the current measurement of air quality, eight parameters. 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.

CPCB along with state pollution control boards has been operating National Air Monitoring Program (NAMP) covering 240 cities. 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 linguistic terms that is easily understood by a common person.

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