CSE welcomes new National Ambient Air Quality Standards | Centre for Science and Environment


CSE welcomes new National Ambient Air Quality Standards

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New Delhi, November 18, 2009: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the newly notified Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which were announced here today by Jairam Ramesh, the minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forests.

CSE welcomes new National Ambient Air Quality Standards, as the first uniform health-based standards in India.
Says the new norms are a challenge as well as opportunity for clearing the air of our cities

* Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) fought hard for this much needed regulation

* Welcomes the government’s move to accord priority to public health through these norms

* Calls once again for car-restraining measures and encouragement to public transport

New Delhi, November 18, 2009: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the newly notified Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which were announced here today by Jairam Ramesh, the minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forests.

“CSE has 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, CSE and head of its Right to Clean Air Campaign.

She added: “With pollution levels going up in almost every Indian city, this was urgently needed to raise the bar of protection for public health.”

What is most important, point out CSE’s researchers, is that India will now have – for the first time – a uniform health-based standard. Says Roychoudhury: “We will now discontinue the old practice of setting air quality standards for different land use classes like residential and industrial and keeping the standards lenient for the industrial areas. The government has finally attached priority to health over protecting industrial interests.”

The key changes

    * The standards have brought two new deadly pollutants – PM 2.5 and ozone -- within the ambit of regulation. Both of these have begun to raise their ugly heads in our cities. Delhi, particularly, has already begun to experience ozone pollution. However, while the proposed air quality norms had suggested a standard of 90 microgramme per cubic metre for ozone, the notified standard (eight hourly) is 100 microgramme per cubic metre. For PM 2.5, the standard has been fixed at what had been proposed – 40 microgramme per cubic metre.

    * The standard for nitrogen oxide (NOx) has been made more stringent: from the existing 60 microgramme per cubic metre, it has been tightened down to 40 microgramme per cubic metre.

    * Standards for short duration -- just one to a few hours – have been set to reduce peak exposure to some deadly gases like ozone and carbon monoxide. Normally, nearly all pollutants have time average standards for a year and a day or for 24 hours. Additionally shorter duration standards of an hour or few hours will help avert immediate impacts of peak levels on people with respiratory and cardiac problems during smoggy days.

    * In some cases, tighter standards for ‘sensitive areas’ have been notified. Several major agricultural crops are very sensitive to air pollutants. Therefore, a tighter air quality standard is now in place for forests and natural vegetation.

CSE has reassessed the air quality data in Indian cities in relation to the proposed standards to understand the change in air quality status of the cities. The macro view that emerges from this analysis is that in 80 per cent of cities monitored under the National Air Quality Monitoring Plan, at least one criteria pollutant exceeds the annual average ambient air quality standards. This has serious public health implications, say CSE researchers, and the new standards may go some way in addressing that concern.

The next step

Overall, say CSE researchers, the standards are tighter now, and offer a huge challenge as well as opportunity for India’s state and city governments in terms of controlling the increasing numbers and dieselisation of their car fleets. “We need measures that will restrain the use of cars and encourage the use of public transport,” says CSE director Sunita Narain.

Delhi, for instance, adds over 1,000 new personal vehicles each day on its roads. And a considerable number of these vehicles run on diesel. According to the Society for Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), market share of diesel cars is expected to be 50 per cent of total car sales by 2010.

Diesel vehicles are known to emit higher smoke, particles and NOx than their petrol counterparts. According to WHO and other international regulatory and scientific agencies, diesel particulates are carcinogens. Even the so-called ‘clean’ diesel running on fuel with 350 ppm of sulphur, allows higher limits for NOx and particulate emissions compared to petrol cars.

CSE has also urged that the ministry of environment and forests should now put in place a system to fulfill the objectives of the 11th Five Year Plan, already underway, that mandates the Central government to set a monitorable target of air quality -- achieve the standards of air quality in all major cities by 2011-12.

For more details, please contact

    * Anumita Roychoudhury (anumita@cseindia.org) or Priyanka Chandola (priyanka@cseindia.org) of CSE’s Right to Clean Air Campaign.

    * or arranging interviews, you can contact Souparno Banerjee CSE’s Media Resource Centre on 9818750007 or write to her at souparno@cseindia.org
 

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