- Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Air Quality Index (AQI) for monitoring the quality of air in major urban centres across the country on a real-time basis and enhancing public awareness for taking mitigative action.
- The Union Environment Ministry proposes to extend the measurement of air quality to 22 state capitals and 44 other cities with a population exceeding one million.
- The AQI has been at present launched for 10 cities — Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
- There are six AQI categories, namely: Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very poor and Severe.
- The index considers eight pollutants — PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3 and Pb). The likely health implications of the six categories would also be provided with a colour code.
- The AQI may prove to be a major initiative for improving air quality in urban areas as it would enhance public awareness and involvement and create a competitive environment among cities to take steps for air pollution-mitigation.
- Traditionally, air quality status has been reported through voluminous data, but it is important that such information is put in the public domain in a format that can be easily understood by a layman.
- It is an important step forward for building awareness and protecting public health.