Stricter standards: With an eye on the health impacts of air pollution, the WHO has released revised guidelines for air quality norms that are substantially tighter than previous norms | Photo: EU Copernicus Service

WHO releases revised air quality standards pushing countries to tighten norms

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released revised and more stringent global Air Quality guidelines. In the first update since 2005, the limits have been reduced to less than half for six  key pollutants compared to 2005 for the governments to set their own standards. The WHO said the guidelines provide clear proof of the damage air pollution caused to health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood. 

The annual PM2.5 levels have been halved to 5 ug/m3 from 10 ug/m3 (2005), while daily mean has been set at 15 ug/m3 from 25 ug/m3 (2005). Annual PM 10 limit is now 45 ug/m3 compared to 50 ug/m3 (2005). Annual O3 limit has been slashed to 10 from 40 ug/m3. The annual NO2 limit has been reduced to 10 compared to 40 of 2005, and daily limit has been set at 25. While the daily SO2 limit has been doubled from 20 of 2005 to 40 now. CO has been set at 4 mg/m3.

Officials meet minister to discuss stubble burning and air pollution ahead of winter

Ahead of winter pollution season representatives of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Delhi met on Thursday to discuss the preparedness to tackle farm fires, one of the major contributors to winter pollution in the region.

Environment minister Bhupender Yadav said between July and September, the ministry issued six advisories and over 40 directions related to air pollution prevention via the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas on all emission sources—industries, construction, and demolition activities, etc–and how to control them.

He said to prevent stubble burning farmers are using a bio enzyme developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute, which helps decompose stubble in around 30 to 35 days. Farmers want direct subsidies on a per quintal basis so that they can manage the stubble themselves and not burn it. 

Air and water pollution violations rise over three times in 2020

According to government data, crimes under The Air and The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act increased 286% in a year (2020 compared to 2019). The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported that a total of 589 cases were registered under these two acts in 2020 compared to 160 cases in 2019. 

Violations under the air and water pollution act rose over 840% in 2019 compared to 2018. But they accounted for less than 1% of the total environment offences in 2019 and 2020. Only eight of the 36 states and Union territories recorded cases for violating air and water pollution laws in 2020. These were: Assam, Haryana, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. In 2020, nearly 90% crimes were registered in Uttar Pradesh. 

‘Air-shed’ impact: 64% of Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution is from neighbouring states, says study

Only 36% of winter air pollution in Delhi is from local sources, while 64% of PM2.5 descends into Delhi from neighbouring states, according to a source-apportionment study jointly conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI). It highlighted the need for an ‘air-shed’ approach to tackling air pollution in the region. 

The highest PM2.5 emissions were from vehicles at 30%, biomass burning contributed 23% of PM2.5, industries added another 20% and dust and construction accounted for 16% of Delhi pollution. Delhi also contributed 40% to Noida’s air pollution. The study stated that during summer, Delhi’s own emissions account for 26% of its PM2.5 concentrations. 

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