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World Air Quality Report- UPSC Current Affairs

Mar 26, 2022

World Air Quality Report

In today's series of our Current Affairs Dialog box, we will discuss World Air Quality Report and its relevance from the UPSC CSE syllabus. The topic should be studied thoroughly during the UPSC exam preparation.

For Prelims: 2021 World Air Quality Report, National Clean Air Program (NCAP), BS-VI Vehicles

For Mains: Effects of Air pollution, Environmental Pollution & Degradation.

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Why in the News?

Recently the State of World Air Quality Report 2021 has been released by the Swiss group IQAir, which measures air quality levels.

Probable Question

Despite numerous attempts at various levels, Delhi is listed as the world's most polluted capital. Comment

Key Points

About the Report

  • The report is based on PM 2.5 air quality data from 6,475 cities in 117 countries, regions, and territories around the world.
    • PM 2.5 is one of the major pollutants contributing to air pollution in the city with less than 2.5 microns in diameter.
  • The report collected data from tens of thousands of regulatory and low-cost air quality monitoring stations operated by governments, non-profit organizations, research institutions, educational facilities, companies, and citizen scientists around the world.

Need for the Report

  • Air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting for seven million deaths around the world every year.
  • Air pollution causes and aggravates many diseases, ranging from asthma to cancer, lung illnesses and heart disease.
  • The estimated daily economic cost of air pollution has been figured at $8 billion (USD), or 3 to 4 per cent of the Gross World Product.
Major source of air pollution in India:

According to the report, major sources of air pollution include vehicular emissions, power generation, industrial waste, biomass combustion for cooking, the construction sector, and crop burning.

About PM 2.5:

PM 2.5 is one of six routinely measured criteria air pollutants and is commonly accepted as the most harmful to human health due to its prevalence in the environment.

Common chemical constituents of PM2.5 include sulphates, nitrates, black carbon, and ammonium.

The most common human-made sources include internal combustion engines, power generation, industrial processes, agricultural processes, construction, and residential wood and coal burning.

Natural source of PM 2.5 are dust storms, sandstorms and wildfires.

Key Findings

  • The report revealed that not a single country managed to meet the WHO’s air quality standard in 2021.
    • WHO recommends that average annual readings of small and hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 should be no more than 5 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • Central and South Asia have some of the worst air quality and were home to 46 of the world's 50 most polluted cities in 2021.
  • Bangladesh was the most polluted country in the world, it recorded an average PM 2.5 level of 76.9 micrograms per cubic metre.
Air Quality

India’s Performance

  • India’s annual average PM2.5 levels reached 58.1 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) in 2021, returning to pre-quarantine concentrations measured in 2019.
  • India is the fifth most polluted country among 117 countries, regions and territories around the world, assessed.
  • Sixty-three Indian cities dominated the list of 100 most polluted cities.
  • No city in India has met the WHO air quality guideline of 5 µg/m3.
  • In 2021, 48 per cent of India’s cities exceeded 50 µg/m3, or more than 10 times the WHO guideline. 
  • India was home to 14 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.
  • New Delhi continues to be the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year.
  • Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi has topped the list followed by Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad.

Suggestions Made by the Report

  • What can government do:
    • Pass legislation to incentivize the use of clean air vehicles for personal and industrial use.
    • Invest in renewable energy sources.
    • Provide financial incentives, such as trade-in programs, to limit the use of internal combustion engines.
    • Provide subsidies to encourage the use of battery and human-powered transportation methods.
    • Adopt new air quality standards based on the 2021 World Health Organization.
    • Strengthen and enforce emission limits for vehicles and industry.
  • Air quality guidelines:
    • Implement forest management strategies to limit wildfires.
    • Ban agricultural and biomass burning.
    • Develop innovative civic strategies for improving air quality.
  • Expand the air quality monitoring framework
    • Increase the number of public air quality monitoring stations.
    • Provide incentives to non-governmental organizations and individuals who set up their own air quality monitoring stations.

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Measures Taken by Indian Government to Control Air Pollution

  • In 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) enacted the National Clean Air Program (NCAP). 
    • The plan seeks to reduce PM concentrations by 20 per cent to 30 per cent by 2024 in all identified non-attainment cities.
  • India has adopted vehicle emission standards for new vehicles.
    • The BS-VI standard is currently equivalent to the Euro 6-1 standard and will be equivalent to the Euro 6-2 standard beginning in April 2023.
  • SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecast and Research):
    • It is a national initiative introduced by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city, by measuring the overall pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city.
  • Subsidy given to farmers for buying Turbo Happy Seeder (THS):
    • It is a machine mounted on a tractor that cuts and uproots the stubble, in order to reduce stubble burning.

Way Forward

  • WHO 4-pillar Strategy calls for an enhanced global response to the adverse health effects of air pollution. Those four pillars are:
    • Expanding the knowledge base
    • Monitoring and reporting
    • Global leadership and coordination
    • Institutional capacity strengthening
  • Participation of all stakeholders at an individual, state and national levels should be taken to increase air pollution awareness.

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