WHO revises air quality norms, experts wary

Say most Indian cities can’t meet even current relaxed pollution levels

WHO revises air quality norms, experts wary

The harmful health effects of air pollution kick in at lower levels than previously thought, the WHO today said as it revised its global air quality guidelines, recommending more stringent standards for key pollutants.

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 22

The harmful health effects of air pollution kick in at lower levels than previously thought, the WHO today said as it revised its global air quality guidelines, recommending more stringent standards for key pollutants.

It has set new standards in the first update of its air quality guidelines since 2005. The PM 2.5 norms for 24 hours average is now 15 µg/m3 instead of 25 µg/m3 (in 2005) and 5 µg/m3 annual instead of 10 µg/m3 (in 2005).

Even at the current relaxed standard, at 40 ug/m3 for annual PM 2.5 averages in India versus WHO’s 2005 annual limit of 10 ug/m3, most Indian cities fail to meet even those levels, says Prof SN Tripathi, Steering Committee Member, National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), calling for revising India’s air quality standards to make them more stringent.

According to Prof Tripathi, there is scientific evidence to prove that air pollution is leading to severe health impacts and 90 per cent of the entire global population is breathing polluted air.

Dr Ravindra Khaiwal of the Environment Health Department, PGI, Chandigarh, says the stringent standards will bring the focus on strict and swift action for better air quality. “Meeting the new guidelines seems a challenge, but under NCAP, India is committed to minimise 20-30 per cent of cities’ air pollution,” he said.

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