The national capital region (NCR), considered among the world’s most polluted area, will soon have a common air quality index based on data from around 50 monitoring stations located across Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Currently the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) put out separate air quality indexes while the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) shares real-time data.
By next month, data from the monitoring stations coming under these agencies will be integrated and a common AQI, which is essentially an advisory for common people, will be put out as a bulletin. “This will help cut through the confusion and an accurate picture of the air quality status will emerge. Currently, there are days when AQI of CPCB does not match with that of the SAFAR, which comes under the MoES,” a member of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) said. The air quality index or AQI is basically a figure and a series of colour codings shared by agencies on the level of pollution. For example, the one CPCB shares ranges between 0 and 500.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘Good’, 51-100 ‘Satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘Moderate’, 201-300 ‘Poor’, 301-400 ‘Very Poor’, and 401-500 ‘Severe’. Each category comes with its own advisory. In case of ‘Moderate’, it warns of breathing discomfort to people with lungs, asthma and heart diseases while ‘Severe’ means the air quality is so bad that it may affect even healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases. In a recent meeting, the EPCA directed the CPCB to expedite the data integration process. Currently, the DPCC operates six stations, SAFAR has 10 and the CPCB runs another 10 in these states.
By the end of October, the DPCC network will expand with the launch of another 20 stations. The CPCB will have 13 new stations in Haryana, 10 in UP and two in Rajasthan. EPCA member Sunita Narain, who is also the chief of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), with an expanded pollution monitoring network, authorities will be able to assess air quality at the local level, whereas currently one gets only a macro level picture. The CPCB has also formed around 40 teams for round-the- clock inspections at the ground level to check violations such as burning of waste in the open, dust from construction projects and visibly polluting vehicles on roads through the winter months when pollution levels in Delhi spike.