AQI — 491! There comes the alarm

Pollution is?

Pollution can be defined as the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects. There are different forms of pollution like Land, Air, Water, Noise and etc. Although environmental pollution can be caused by natural events such as forest fires and active volcanoes, use of the word pollution generally implies that the contaminants have an anthropogenic source — that is, a source created by human activities. Pollution has accompanied humankind ever since groups of people first congregated and remained for a long time in any one place. Pollution was not a serious problem as long as there was enough space available for each individual or group. However, with the establishment of permanent settlements by great numbers of people, pollution became a problem, and it has remained one ever since.

Enough content from class 5 textbook, let’s move onto the point!

Air Quality Index — The What?

The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells how clean or polluted our air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for us. The AQI focuses on health effects one may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in this country.

How does it work?

Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.

Why this now?

Cities across North India are considered to be `severe` on the Air Quality Index (AQI) as per the report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).Varanasi topped the list at 491, followed by Gurugram at 480, Delhi at 468, Lucknow at 462 and Kanpur at 461, in the AQI. Pollution level is categorised as `severe` when the AQI ranges between 401 and 500, which affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases. The stubble burning by farmers in northern states of Punjab and Haryana are speculated to have added to the factors causing pollution in the northern belt of India. The air pollution in the national capital has worsened in the last few days, with air quality dropping to `severe` category and thick toxic smog enshrouding the region. People complained of burning sensation in their eyes and heaviness in breathing, reflecting the severity of the pollution.

What to do now?

Various popular cities in the world also experience same kind of air quality problem but they have devised well defined agenda to tackle the issue. For example, Beijing has set a time bound target method through which it has defined a set of rules to be followed when AQI crosses the benchmarks like 100,200,etc. In the past three years, it has recorded a consistent improvement in air quality and is continuing to achieve the safest level possible. Though the odd-even scheme of Delhi, has been successful(If nothing else, it made all others sit up and take notice), several other ways like car-pooling, non-motorised transport and #Pedal_to_work should be taken up by people themselves to make their place, at least safe to survive.

What about Varanasi?

Go to any ghat and without any technology or pollution meter, one could know that the situation is bad. What we need are solutions that could save the people from deadly disorders and fatal breathing issues. Though very few measures can be taken by us for reducing pollution, it’s high time that we start taking measures by ourselves as it is a case that calls for urgent action!

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