You will soon find out how much the air outside your homes in residential colonies, such as Janakpuri, Greater Kailash or Rohini, will impact your health.
In a first for any Indian city, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), along with the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), will start air pollution forecast for Delhi in the next few months.
“On the basis of the forecast, a health advisory will also be issued for citizens and the local authorities,” a senior environment ministry official, who is coordinating the project, said. The forecast and advisory would be based on a comprehensive air pollution index.
For instance, if the air quality predicted for a particular place is 300% higher than the national standard, a health advisory for critical levels of air pollution would be issued. In case it is 200%, the advisory would be for high levels.
Delhi’s average air pollution levels are 70-90% higher than the national standard but in winter it goes up by 300%.
While the decision on issuing a health advisory has been taken, its nature is yet to be decided. The CPCB says there is not enough scientific evidence in India to relate any health disorder to a particular level of air pollution and, therefore, the advisory should be general.
The Centre for Science and Environment, which is pushing for a precise health advisory, says the WHO had enough data to link health problems with air pollution. “Such health advisories are issued in all cities of Europe and the US. Even China has started the practice,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, associate director of the CSE.
Initially, the project was to be launched before the Commonwealth Games, but was delayed due to a turf war between the CPCB and IITM. Now, most of the issues have been resolved and the government expects to start the forecast once the nature of the health advisory to be issued is decided.
The CPCB has already imported automated pollution measurement equipment from France for daily forecasts. It has set up a station in Rajasthan to study the impact of westerly winds on the Capital’s air quality. The air pollution data of the last 10 years from different monitoring stations in Delhi will be synchronised with weather data to predict the air quality levels.
“Using the data, authorities can regulate traffic in an area, which is a potential source of high air pollution,” a ministry official said.