Central Pollution Control Board releases National Air Quality Indices for 24 cities

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The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had published National Air Quality Indices (NAQI) for cities across India in the first week of February 2016. Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Muzzafarpur in Bihar have topped the list with an AQI value of 409 points each. The two cities have been coded as ‘severe’ in terms of air pollution in January 2016.

Major highlights from the report 

►Faridabad (Haryana), Patna (Bihar) and Agra (Uttar Pradesh) have been placed at 3rd, 4th and 5th position with 399, 388 and 372 points 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 while 7 other Indian cities were rated as "very poor" they were Agra (342), Faridabad (345), Kanpur (347), Lucknow (353), Muzzaffarpur (400), Patna (373) and Varanasi (366).

►In the months of September 2015 and October 2015, Delhi was at the top of  AQI but in November 2015, it showed improvement and was ranked at third position with a score of 360 while Lucknow and Patna were at top two positions with 374 and 366 AQIs respectively.

►The World Health Organization (WHO) has earlier termed Delhi as one of the most polluted city in the world in terms of air pollution and in fact, air pollution in Delhi is 12 times higher than WHO standards.

National Air Quality Index 

Traditionally, air quality status has been reported through complex data but it was important that information on air quality is put up in public domain in simple terms so that it is easily understood by a common person. Air Quality Index (AQI) is one such tool for effective dissemination of air quality information to people. 

The National AQI is published every month by CPCB along with a colour code and a numerical value that helps in comparing pollution levels in each cities. The NAQI is determined on the basis of concentration of eight pollutants including Particulate Matter (PM 2.5, PM 10), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), ammonia (NH3) and lead (Pb). 

The colour categories are classified into 6 categories depending upon numerical value as Good (0-50), Satisfactory (51-100), Moderately polluted (101-200), Poor (201-300), Very poor (301-400) and Severe (401-500).

AQI      Associated Health Impacts
Good (0–50)   Minimal Impact

Satisfactory (51–100)

May cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people.
Moderately polluted (101–200) May cause breathing discomfort to people with lung disease such as asthma, and discomfort to people with heart disease, children and older adults
Poor (201–300)   May cause breathing discomfort to people on prolonged exposure, and discomfort to people with heart disease
Very Poor (301–400) May cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases.
Severe (401-500) 

May cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.

As per 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. Delhi government launched odd-even scheme on 1 January 2016 as a trial for 15 days to curb pollution levels and it has showed significant contribution toward reduction in the air pollution but in the absence of strong measures, public and government participation the problem is not likely to go away anytime soon in Delhi and other major Indian cities.

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