National Air Quality Index: Kanpur, Varanasi, and Chennai more polluted than Delhi

July 16, 2015 1:10 PM |

Air Quality Index IndiaWhen Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Air Quality Index (NAQI) in April this year, the debate surrounding air pollution in Delhi was fast gaining momentum. After being declared as the most polluted city in the word, Delhi earned a lot of unfavorable mentions in the media and global climate change gatherings. But after six months of proper functioning, the real story about the most polluted city in India has finally surfaced.

There’s no good news, but more bad news. NAQI values recorded and analyzed over a period of six months show that the quality of air in Kanpur, Varanasi, and Chennai is much worse than Delhi. Simply speaking, on an average, the air you breathe in the streets of Varanasi is more polluted than the air you inhale at India Gate in Delhi. So what led to this revelation? Technically, Delhi and other parts of North India have high particulate matter levels whereas cities like Chennai are host to higher concentrations of other toxic pollutants namely nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

Currently, NAQI values are available for 11 cities across the country. Data for these cities is available online and more cities will be included as monitoring stations will be brought online. As per the data available, most cities in the country are facing health emergencies on account of air pollution on a daily basis. The NAQI values can be compared across cities as well as across pollutants. This gives a clearer comparative analysis of air quality in different parts of the country.

While environment friendly steps have been taken by Modi government at the center and by the Kejriwal government in Delhi, a more inclusive and co-operative approach is required in order to cope with alarming levels of air quality in various cities across the country. Another interesting alternative is to shut down government offices and schools, in a city or region, on days when air quality is critically low. This procedure is followed in Beijing where citizens are asked to stay indoors when the air quality level outside breaches a certain limit. Both small and big cities are recording severe air quality levels. But as always, the government’s implementation arm appears to be too weak to deal with the situation.

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