Kalpana Palkhiwala writes: Environmental pollution remains a serious issue in the developing world, affecting the lives of billion people, reducing their life expectancy, and damaging children’s growth and development. The Government has recently revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and limits for 12 pollutants have been notified. Area classification based on land –use has been done away with so that industrial areas have to conform to the same standards as those for residential areas. The annual average norms for Lead, Nitrogen Dioxide (No2), Arsenic, Nickel, Benzene and Benzo(a ) Pyrene in ambient air are at par with the European Union norms. However, the norms for Particulate Matter having size less than 10 micron (PM10 ) and Particulate Matter having size less than 2.5 micron (PM2..5) are more relaxed than EU norms. Indian norms for Carbon Monoxide, Ozone and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) are more stringent than EU norms. Ammonia is additionally included in our NAAQS.
Under the Environment Surveillance Programme, CPCB has undertaken the task of development of monitoring protocols and the infrastructure needed for monitoring and enforcement of the new ambient air quality norms. It undertakes inspection of various industrial units under the 17 categories of highly polluting industries to verify compliance to the prescribed standards. Based on the level of non-compliance observed, directions are issued to the concerned State Pollution Control Boards under section 18(I)(b) of the water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and / or The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 as the case may be, and directly to the industries under section 5 of The Environment Protection Act, 1986. Such actions have been taken against major defaulters in sectors like Thermal Power, Cement, Fertilizers, etc., by the CPCB.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the limits for levels of air pollutants with an adequate margin of safety to protect the public health, vegetation and property.
There were 7 parameters, namely, Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx), Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM), Respirable Particulate Matter (RSPM,) Lead Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Ammonia (NH3) notified under the Air Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) were earlier notified in the year 1994 under the Air Act. There is a difference between the World Health Organisations norms-2005 and our revised standards / NAAQS. Whereas we have prescribed 12 parameters, mainly, PM10, PM2.5, SO2,NO2,CO, NH3, Ozone, Lead, Benzene, Benzo-aPyrene, Arsenic and Nickle. WHO has suggested five parameters, out of which, only four are to be monitored i.e PM10/ PM 2.5 , Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Ozone.
The CPCB monitors PM2.5, Ozone (ground level),Carbon Monoxide, Lead, Hydrocarbons, Ammonia, Benzene, etc., at selected locations in few cities apart fromSulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and PM10 at all locations under National Air Monitoring Programme(NAMP).
WHO Air Quality Guidelines
WHO first came up with air quality guidelines in 1987 which were updated in 1996 and subsequently revised in 2000. These were known as Air Quality Guidelines forEurope. There after WHO issued guidelines in 2005 on air quality.
Execution of Air Quality Monitoring
The CPCB is executing a nation-wide programme of ambient air quality monitoring known as National Air Monitoring Programme (NAMP). The programme was started in the year 1984-85 from Agra and Anpara in Uttar Pradesh and gradually the network has been extended to various parts of the country.
Under the National Air Monitoring Programme (NAMP), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) with the assistant of 26 State Pollution Control Board (SPCBs) in respective States, 5 Pollution control Committees (PCCs) in various UTs along with the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI- a laboratory of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (are monitoring ambient air quality through 363 stations in 139 cities as on 30.11.2009 across the country.
Parameters by CPCB / SPCBs /PCCs for Air Quality
Under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP), three major air pollutants viz., Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) , Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and RespairableParticulate Matter or fine dust (RPM/PM10), are being monitored regularly . Besides these air pollutants, the CPCB is also monitoring Lead, Carbon Monoxide Benzene, Particulate Matter with size less then 2.5 micrometre and ground level Ozone in Delhi.
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2 ), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2 ) and Respirable Particulate Matter or Fine dust (RPM/PM10) are the routine parameters for air quality monitoring across the country. Carbon Monoxide, ground level Ozone, Particulate Matter with size less than 2.5micrometre (PM2.5) Ammonia, etc., are the parameters which will be taken up for monitoring in a phased manner in metro cities to being with. A roadmap is being prepared by the CPCB for the new parameters included in NAAQS which would be monitored under NAMP. Ministry of Environment and Forests on 16.11.2009 has notified National Ambient Air Quality Standards with a view to assess ambient air quality status in the country with respect to 12 pollutants.
Various air pollutants as per the standards are monitored based on the time weighted average. The monitoring of pollutants is carried out in different areas namely, industrial, residential, rural and other areas, and in ecologically sensitive areas. The notified standards also prescribe methods of measurement of the pollutants. For Each category of air polluting industry, emission standards are prescribed separately for their compliance. To revise the standards major considerations are taken into account.