NEW DELHI: The Central government has for the first time explicitly acknowledged that pollution is a national problem and is as serious in rural areas as in cities. To deal with it, the government has prepared a draft National Clear Air Plan, which envisages having 600 more air monitoring stations across the country and reducing air pollution by 50 per cent in the next five years.
The draft plan, which the ministry is set to finalise within the next four weeks, shifts the focus from the Delhi/National Capital Region to the whole country, including 100 ‘non-attainment’ cities that are highly polluted and have shown no improvement in air quality over the past few years.
It acknowledges that indoor pollution in tightly sealed buildings is becoming a major problem.The plan states that the common belief is that rural areas are free from air pollution, but on the contrary, air quality in rural areas all over the world, particularly in the developing countries, may be worse than that in some urban areas.
It further says that indoor air pollution exposes more people worldwide to health risks than outdoor air pollution, and that use of firewood and cow dung as fuel and poorly ventilated kitchens are resulting in the buildup of indoor pollution in homes.“Since rural areas are not covered in the National Air Management Plan, it has been decided to put 50 air monitoring stations in rural areas,” it adds.
The draft plan notes that exposure to indoor pollution has increased in cities due to construction of more tightly sealed buildings, reduced ventilation, the use of synthetic materials for building and furnishing, and the use of chemical products in households paint, care products and pesticides.
The draft says that the manual pollution monitoring stations in just 300 of the 4,000 cities in the country are too few in number and need augmentation. “It is proposed to augment it to 1,000 stations from the existing 680 stations,” it says.
Recognising the need to monitor real-time data and peak concentration levels of critical pollutants, specifically with reference to the Air Quality Index, the plan says that the number of Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations may be increased from 55 in 40 cities to 268 in 67 cities.
The draft also discusses the setting up of a 10-city super network.
“This network may capture overall air quality dynamics of the nation, impact of interventions, trends, investigative measurements etc. The cities may be identified for capturing possible variations (metro city, village, mid-level town, coastal town, industrial location etc). It should generate high-quality controlled data and will represent national air quality dynamics,” the plan says.
Among other major measures envisaged in the draft plan are the setting up of an air information centre, an air quality forecasting system, an extensive plantation drive, a national emission inventory, and a comprehensive review of ambient air quality standards.