Air Quality Standards

Issues surrounding Air Quality Standards in India

Question: What are the issues concerning Air Quality Standards? And why are Indian Air Quality standards not considered safe?

1.Air quality is not being monitored in real time

Central Pollution Control Board gets real-time air quality data from only two or three monitoring stations in most cities. This gives a skewed picture of air quality status and compromises policy-making. Most cities depend on manual monitoring stations, which use obsolete technology, and data is released just twice a week.

2.The sources of air pollution are not very well known

A study by IIT Kanpur for Delhi revealed that the contribution of each source of pollution-vehicles, waste burning, construction dust-changes with the seasons, but most cities don’t have this information. Bengaluru’s emissions inventory was conducted in 2010 and Chennai’s by IIT Madras in 2011, while Kanpur, Mumbai and Pune released their reports in 2010. 2008 was when data on pollution sources was last collected in cities

3.Governments fail to enforce

But no city administration seems worried about getting off that list. Delhi, for instance, is still short of 5,000 buses; it hasn’t implemented SC directions on prohibiting waste burning or ensuring construction projects don’t pollute. Data for most cities makes it obvious that air pollution is not high on any government’s priority list. 94 cities don’t meet national air quality standards.

4.Health risks are Ignored

While air pollution is hurting the country’s exchequer, it’s also associated with certain cancers, lower birth weight of babies, premature birth, strokes a respiratory disease. Across the country, air pollution is linked to 6.7 lakh premature deaths

5.People’s participation not forthright

The Deonar landfill fire drew attention to Mumbai’s waste problem, while Delhi’s three landfills are constantly on fire exposing lakhs to carcinogenic emissions. This is a common problem in all cities. If people segregated garbage at home, there would be no burning of waste. People can also choose public transport, or pick electric and CNG vehicles


What are the problems with India’s numbers on air quality?

Although the government mandates companies to adhere to specifications defined by the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA), but there are many problems.

Flaws in Monitoring

High volume samples

MEASURE: Particulate matter like PM 2.5 and PM 10

FLAWS: Competition among instrument makers and component suppliers is resulting un undercutting. Given lack of quality control, it is doubtful if these machines measure what they claim to

Wet Chemistry

MEASURE: Gases like So2, etc

FLAWS: Competition resulting in undercutting. some bids below cost of experiment itself

Continuous Monitoring

MEASURE: All pollutants

FLAWS: State pollution control boards and companies tweak calibration to ensure air quality numbers stay within permissible limits

By K Siddhartha

Earth Scientist, Author, Mentor, Educationist & Consultant | 20+ years mentoring experience | 40+ books across humanities disciplines | Advisor to Maldivian & Sri Lankan Govt. on Education and Environmental Issues.

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