Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in the first week of February 2016 published National Air Quality Indices (NAQI) for 24 cities. The AQI published with a colour code and a numerical value will help in comparing pollution levels in each cities.
The NAQI is determined on the basis of concentration of eight pollutants, including Particulate Matter (PM2.5 fine, respirable particles), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), ammonia (NH3) and lead (Pb).
• Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Muzzafarpur in Bihar topped the list and were coded as ‘severe’ in terms of air pollution in January 2016 with an AQI value of 409 points each.
• These two cities are followed by Faridabad (399), Patna (388) and Agra (372) at 3rd, 4th and 5th position respectively.
• The national capital Delhi stood at the sixth position with 362 points and was coded as ‘very poor’.
• Earlier in December 2015, Delhi was coded as ‘Poor’ in AQI with 293 points. Seven other Indian cities were ahead of it and rated as ‘very poor’ and they were Agra (342), Faridabad (345), Kanpur (347), Lucknow (353), Muzzaffarpur (400), Patna (373) and Varanasi (366).
• In November 2015, Delhi was ranked at third position with a score of 360 with Lucknow and Patna at top two positions with 374 and 366 AQIs respectively.
• In the months of September 2015 and October 2015, Delhi was at the top of air pollution chart.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), Delhi is the most polluted city in the world in terms of air pollution. In fact, air pollution in Delhi is 12 times higher than WHO standards.
However, NAQI shows that other major cities like Lucknow, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Agra and Varanasi continue to show alarmingly high air-pollutant levels – 10 times higher than WHO standards making air pollution truly a national emergency.
In 2014, the WHO released a list of world’s 20 most polluted cities, 13 of which were in India.
According to the Global Burden of Disease report, air pollution is estimated to be the fifth deadliest killer in the country. Each year, almost six lakh Indians die prematurely due to air pollution.
Although Delhi government launched Odd-even scheme on 1 January 2016 for 15 days to curb pollution levels and that showed some improvements but this alone cannot be enough. In the absence of strong measures, the problem is not likely to go away anytime soon in Delhi and other major Indian cities.
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