Interviews |

Mandatory AQI and complimentary prediction systems needed

Ajit Tyagi, current Koteswaram Professor, Ministry of Earth Sciences and the former Director General of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), comments on the state of air quality index in India.

Ajit Tyagi very Big

G’nY file photo

With rising pollution in cities do you think Air Quality Index (AQI) should be made a mandatory part of weather information/bulletin?
Air Quality is one of the major growing problems all over the world, and specially in cities. Rising pollution in cities is causing deterioration of air quality resulting in health problems. Timely air quality information can assist the public in taking precautionary measures and therefore, air quality reporting should become mandatory in all major cities, to start with.

The Central Pollutiion Control Board (CPCB) in India was assigned the role of collecting data pertaining to air quality amongst other things. Recently System of Air Quality forecasting and Research (SAFAR), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune has been assigned a similar role. Do you see an overlap in their roles? Also with expensive instrumentation being one of the deterrents for all-location real time data do we really need a new body?
CPCB is the national agency to collect pollution data, including air pollution. For Commonwealth Games in 2010, CPCB was not in the position to communicate real time air quality information or to provide air quality forecasts. Therefore, SAFAR was planned by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and successfully implemented by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and India Meteorological Department (IMD), New Delhi. The SAFAR programme had been a grand success and its performance has been appreciated by national and international agencies. CPCB and SAFAR can complement each other by sharing data. We can avoid co-location of air quality monitoring stations by sharing data.

SAFAR outlines AQI standards as ‘good’, ‘moderate’, etc. Can you please tell us how these standards were devised and whether they conform to international norms; such as the USA’s?
SAFAR outlines Air Quality Index in five categories, i.e. Good, Moderate, Poor, Very Poor very Unhealthy. AQI categories are designed to help one to understand what air quality around you means to your health. Category Good is as per standards given by CPCB. Air Quality Index (1 to 500) incorporates individual pollution concentration and stratifies it into five categories i.e. 1 to 100 as Good, 101 to 200 as Moderate, 201 to 300 as Poor, 301 to 400 as Very Poor and above 400 as Very Unhealthy. The methodology used in computing AQI and classifying it in five categories follows international norms. IITM has prepared a scientific report on evolution of Air Quality Standards and Defining AQI for India.

When do you think real-time AQI for major cities of India will be made available to all to use?
Ideally real time AQI is need of all major cities. MoES has planned to cover metro cities during XIIth Five year Plan. SAFAR is already operational for Pune Metropolitan Area. Mumbai is next and Chennai, Kolkata, and other metro cities will follow.

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