National Air Quality Index and Urban Pollution

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Context: Delhi has experienced an improvement in the Air Quality Index. 

National Air Quality Index: This index is launched under Swacch Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. The aim of the Index is ‘one number- one color-one description’ for the common man to judge the air quality within the vicinity. Air quality index is a tool for effective communication of air quality status to people, which transforms complex air quality data of various pollutants into a single index value, nomenclature or color.

Air quality is declared in 6 categories

The index considers eight pollutants i.e. PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed

National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide. 

The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Reasons for Urban Air Pollution:-

  1. A high density of population leading to an increased no of vehicles which further lead to harmful gaseous emissions, traffic jams congestions, etc.
  2. An influx of migrants from nearby areas in search of economic opportunities.
  3. Artificially infused VOC's, smog, and industrial pollutants and lack of disbursement thereof.
  4. Urban areas being adjoined by agricultural lands, after harvesting, farmers burn the chaffs and leftover husk in the field. This leads to smoky clouds in the urban area. Punjab/Haryana govt banned it. But it’s still prevalent. Strict implementation and ethanol making through chaffs should be encouraged.
  5. Pollutants flow towards low-pressure areas. These low-pressure areas are formed in urban areas due to the heat island effect.


  1. Removing bottlenecks in administrative policymaking like ensuring planned settlements, establishing factories and emitting units at a considerable distance from the residential areas.
  2. Use of Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) to produce complete and accurate pollution data.
  3. Stringent registration and pollution Checks on vehicles and public transport.
  4. Strict penalty for polluting industries, reduction of carbon footprint and green tax regimes.
  5. Pollution Tax based on Polluter Pays principle. For e.g. coal cess levied was a good start
  6. Market-based solutions like Emission Trading Systems can also be used.

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