India revises air quality norms after 15 years


New Delhi: With pollution levels rising across the country, India Wednesday revised the national ambient air quality standards after 15 years, bringing about uniform standards for residential and industrial areas.

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“We have notified the ambient air quality standards in India which is equivalent to the European level and exceeds the standard prevalent in the US,” said Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

The revised ambient air quality standards provide a legal framework for the control of air pollution and the protection of public health and any citizen can approach the court demanding better air quality.

“The most important part of the revised standards is that distinctions between industrial and residential areas have been removed. Now industries have to conform to the same standards as residential areas and will be compelled to take necessary measures to check air pollution,” said Ramesh.

The minister said that the number of vehicles on the road, population and industries have increased manifold in the past 15 years but we were still following the old ambient air standards.

Under the revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), 12 pollutants will be measured compared to the previous seven to calculate the level of air pollution.

The revised NAAQS notified by the ministry of environment and forests Monday have been prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in consultation with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.

“Under the revised standards, fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) will be measured which is more relevant for public health as it gets into the respiratory system and affects health,” he said.

The ministry is also in the process of developing additional support systems for enforcing the prescribed standards.

“The enforcement of these standards is the most important thing. We are in the process of setting up the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and National Environment Protection Authority (NEPA) to ensure the effective enforcement of the standards,” Ramesh said.

Environmentalists welcomed the ministry’s decision to revise air pollution standards but said it should have been done long back.

“We have been demanding these norms, proposals for which have been languishing with the ministry for over three years. It has been a long and protracted battle, and we have fought very hard for them,” said Anumita Roychoudhury, associate director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and head of its Right to Clean Air Campaign.