Reality check on air quality: The Hindu (Editorial Page)

“Delhi’s poor air quality has rightly made it the centre of media and government attention. However, the Indian government’s own air quality monitoring apparatus now shows the focus so far may have remained too narrowly on some pollutants and, as a result, only on some cities. India’s Air Quality Index, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early April, presents an AQI value for a given city based on the prominent pollutant in that city, calibrated for comparison. Six months of AQI values for 11 Indian cities show that Kanpur, Varanasi and Chennai have worse air quality than Delhi, on average. While Delhi and the rest of north India have higher particulate matter levels, cities such as Chennai find high concentrations of other toxic pollutants including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Dust, caused by a wide range of natural and man-made activities, can have a deeply damaging impact on the respiratory tract. But at the levels at which they are being experienced, gaseous pollutants have equally detrimental effects. The value of the AQI, one of the experts said, is in it being comparable across cities and across pollutants in terms of health impact. Some cities have been complacent over their low particulate matter levels. However, the new numbers show there is no room for complacency; other pollutants have been poisoning people…” The Hindu

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