[GS3] Pollution: National Air Quality Index, SAFAR Technology, Parafoil Drone, Pthalates

National Air Quality index

[GS3] Pollution: National Air Quality Index, SAFAR Technology, Parafoil Drone, Pthalates

  1. #1: National Air quality index (AQI): WHY?
    1. Features of new AQI
    2. Criticism of new Air Quality Index
  2. #2: SAFAR
  3. #3: Smog sucker Chinese Parafoil drone
  4. #4: Pthalates, Airfresheners and Pollution
  5. Mock Questions

National Air quality index (AQI): WHY?

  • Mains Relevance: GS3: Environmental Pollution.
  • Part of the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, Modi wants to inform public about the pollution and its ill-effects.
  • Presently, Government agencies publish air-quality data with  technical-jargon like PM2.5, PM10. Common man cannot understand.
  • The new Airquality index (AQI) will use color-coded table to show air-quality and its effect on health. Thus even common man can understand easily. Their USP being “One Number- One Colour-One Description.”

Features of new AQI

National Air Quality index

National Air Quality index, launched in 2014, October

  • Who? Environment and Central Pollution control board. (2014, October.)
  • Will be monitor air quality in 46 cities having above 10 lakh population + all state capitals.
  • After 5 years, entire India will be monitored.
  • Earlier index only monitored three parameters. New AQI will monitor 8 type of pollutants
  • For short-term 24 hours averaging period.
AQI will monitor these 8 pollutants to help UPSC examiner frame MCQs:
PM10 Coarse Pollutants with a diameter of 10 microns or less. Mostly from dust and smoke. Create breathing difficulty particularly among asthma patients and elderly.
  • Respirable particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. They float in air air for weeks, due to small size, thus smog and haze problem.
  • They go deep in lungs and even pass in blood.
  • Result? chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease.
  • For this index, London 16; Delhi 153 (smaller no. means cleaner air)
  • Nitrogen dioxide. Lung irritant. Harmful to textile fibres and metals.
  • Red haze in traffic
  • Damages plant leaves, slows down photosynthesis.
  • Asthama, bronchitis, emphysema etc. respiratory diseases
  • Eye irritation and tears.
  • Stiffness of flowerbuds. They fall from plant.
  • Carbon Monoxide binds with haemoglobin. Thus, Blood carries less oxygen. Result? headache, nausia, weak eyesight, premature birth, abortion, deformed babies.
  • Ozone is a toxic gas. Dryness of eyes, chestpain, cough.
  • Collectively Ozone, PAN, Nitric oxide, Formaldehyde result in “photochemical smog”.
  • Photochemical smog occurs when sunlight acts on vehicle pollutants
  • Photochemical smog=> rubber cracking, plant damages, metals corroded.
  • Ammonia in air + NOX, SOx=>PM 2.5 and PM 2.5 have very small size, they float in air for weeks=>smog and haze problem.
  • Ammonia in water=>Eutrophication, Algae blooms.
  • Lead Interferes with red blood cells.
  • Solution: use unleaded petrol

Based on above 8 pollutant levels, the air quality of given city, will be classified into following 6 color-coded categories.

6 categories of air quality
Category index Health impact
1.Good 0-50 minimal
2.satisfactory 51-100 Minor Breathing discomfort to sensitive people.
3.Moderately polluted 101-200 Breathing discomfort to asthma patents, elderly and children.
4.poor 201-300 Breathing discomfort to all
5.Very poor 301-400 Respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.
6.Severe 401-500 Health impact even on light physical work. Serious impact on people with heart/lung disease.

Criticism of new Air Quality Index

  1. Since 90s, industrial units have to install instruments to measure air-quality and send data to state pollution control boards. If too much pollution =>unit will be shut down.
  2. But Industrial units deliberately using India-made (faulty) machines to measure PM2.5. So reported number is less than actual pollution.
  3. Such Instrument manufacturers only need to declare “self-certification” that their machine meets quality standards. Government not doing checks on such products, by itself. (counter-argument: it’ll lead to inspector raj and bribery).
  4. They’ve prepared one index to be used uniformly for Entire India. We need separate indexes for residential vs industrial areas; cities vs towns vs villages.
  5. For example: in village air, methane high due to open compost pits and animal husbandry. YET under this index, village air-quality will be “good”, because methane not monitored.
  6. Doesn’t monitor Benzene. Benzene is a carcinogen chemical from Petrol and diesel. USA monitors its level.
  7. Mere informing the citizens through a color-coded table = insufficient. Need to include conditional safety protocols in it.
  8. For example, In China- if air quality index reaches red level, they shut down primary schools. Counter argument: Under US embassy’s Air quality index, Delhi is in purple category=one step more dangerous than Red. So Delhi will have to permanently shut down schools=>coaching business expands. Bigger holes in parents’ pockets.


Mains Relevance: GS3: Achievement of Indians, Indigenization of technology.

Share this post