Air Quality Index

India recently launched National Air Quality Index to provide real time data on air quality in some of India’s bigger cities. Write a critical note on this policy initiative and examine if anything more needs to be done to tackle air pollution in Indian cities. (200 Words)

The idea behind the National Air Quality Index (NAQI) is to put out real time data about the levels of pollutants in the air and inform people about the possible impacts on health. NAQI takes multiple data on pollution collected by the CPCB and SPCBs and presents it in a colour coded scale simplifying the understanding of pollution levels. This initiative is a welcome move especially in light of the recently concluded WHO study according to which Delhi is the most polluted city in the world.
However, the NAQI by itself is simply not enough in the fight to bring down pollution levels in the country which are known to reduce the lifespan of an average citizen by 3.2 years. India’s AQI, unlike those of other countries, does not have a mechanism in place to bring down peak pollution levels. For e.g., in Beijing, government puts into motion measures such as closing down school, imposing a cap on the number of vehicles allowed on roads and closing down polluting industries when the warning signal for severe pollution is issued.
Further, NAQI falls short of the standards set by the WHO. For e.g., India’s tolerance level for 2.5 PM is 50 mcg per cubic metre whereas the international standard is only 40 mcg per cubic metre.
In addition to rectifying the above mentioned drawbacks of the NAQI, following are some suggestions, which if implemented can go a long way in reducing pollution:
  • improving public rail and bus transportation system;
  • imposing a congestion charge on vehicles, which could be used to fund investment in public transport system;
  • encouraging the use of bicycles by creating dedicated cyclist friendly corridors;
  • incentivising the use of roof top solar panels, which will help reduce our dependence on coal fired power plants;



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