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UPSC Sansad TV: What is Air Quality Index?





Not only India but most of the countries of the world are facing the increasing problem of air pollution. Air pollution has emerged as a major challenge for the entire global community. At present, the situation at the global level is so bad that almost half of the world i.e. more than 90% of the population is forced to breathe polluted air (i.e. AQI is beyond 300, 400 or 500).

National Air Quality Index:

Launched in 2014 with outline ‘One Number – One Color -One Description’ for the common man to judge the air quality within his vicinity.

  • The measurement of air quality is based on eight pollutants, namely: Particulate Matter (PM10), Particulate Matter (PM2.5), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), Ammonia (NH3), and Lead (Pb).
  • AQI has six categories of air quality. These are: Good, Satisfactory, Moderately Polluted, Poor, Very Poor and Severe.
  • It has been developed by the CPCB in consultation with IIT-Kanpur and an expert group comprising medical and air-quality professionals.

Consequences of high AQI:

  • Large number of deaths (around 2000) is attributed due to pollution which is very frightening. The figures may not be correct because they are only estimates.
  • India has recorded 50% increase in the pre mature deaths linked to PM 2.5 and this is between 1990 and 2015 almost coinciding with the economic liberalisation.
  • Air quality has become a serious health issue because the pollutants enter deep inside the lungs and the lungs capacity to purify bloods gets reduced which affects the person’s growth, mental ability and the working capacity especially for children, pregnant women and elderly people.
  • Poor people are more vulnerable to air pollution because they are the one who spend more time on roads.

Measures needed:

  • Increase public awareness of air pollution. Educate and inform people about what they can do to reduce air pollution. Put out public health messages on the metro, buses, billboards, and radio to help change public behaviour.
  • Raise and enforce emission standards. India is still on Bharat III and IV emission standards for our vehicles and fuels. This is 10-15 years behind the West, where vehicles spew one-tenth of our emissions or less.
  • Improve public transportation and traffic management. Expand the fleet of CNG buses. Implement BRT the right way. Build, repair, and reclaim the sidewalks for pedestrians – not for parking and vending – so people can walk more often, including to nearby bus stops and metro stations.
  • Discourage vehicle use: Driving is not a right but a privilege; it has a social cost. Impose – as many countries do – an annual vehicle use fee. Penalize ownership of multiple cars in a household.
  • Penalize big and non-compliant polluters. Like Beijing, ban the sale and registration of all new private diesel vehicles in Delhi. Provide 24×7 power across the NCR to minimize genset use; ban diesel gensets and promote CNG gensets. Spot-check fuel pumps for adulteration. Move coal-firedbrick/pottery kilns out of the NCR.
  • Reduce road and construction dust. The problem of dust plagues the entire Indo-Gangetic plain. It can be mitigated by changing how our urban surface infrastructure is built.
  • Reduce domestic sources of pollution, improve waste management. According to the 2011 census, over ten percent of Delhi’s households still use biomass for cooking. Remove the address proof requirement for LPG Make LPG more affordable.


Environmentalists believe that the reduced pollution levels should act as a wake-up call for the government. This has been a fantastic wake-up call and I think we had a reality check and we need to figure out a new normal. This is an opportunity, a chance to find a new sustainable life.