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| Last Updated:20/01/2021

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Modi launches air quality index, backs green ways

PM blames changing lifestyles for rising pollution levels

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a colour-coded air quality index (AQI) for 10 cities including Delhi on Monday, as he blamed changing lifestyles for rising pollution levels and panned developed nations for denying India nuclear fuel.

Inaugurating a two-day conference of state environment and forest ministers at the Capital’s Vigyan Bhavan, Modi turned around the global climate debate, saying India should not bow to foreign pressure to commit to cuts in carbon emissions, and instead pledged to use more clean energy and traditional methods to lead the fight against climate change.

“There can be green solutions in our age-old traditions. India has a long tradition of recycling, reuse,” he said. “See the irony. The world gives lecture on climate but if we tell them that we want to move forward in nuclear energy as it is a good path for environment protection and when we ask them to provide necessary fuel for nuclear energy, they refuse.”

Modi said the country’s contribution to the global pollution level was one of the lowest and asked citizens to change the world’s view that India doesn’t care about the environment. His comments came in the backdrop of the WHO last year declaring Delhi the world’s most polluted city, prompting embassies and international establishments to install air purifiers.

“Per person carbon emission in India is very low,” he said. “Everybody has come to believe that the world is concerned about climate change but India is posing hurdles...We have grown up in an culture where nature is worshipped like God and protecting nature is linked to humanity.”

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said the government would publish air quality data for 10 cities— Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad – each of which would have monitoring stations with display boards flashing the latest numbers. The aim is to eventually cover 66 cities. The index based on global parameters to measure air quality provides a consolidated number after tracking eight pollutants on four-hourly basis and uses colour coding to describe associated health impacts. Though the AQI developed by the Central Pollution Control Board and IIT Kanpur has been launched, there is no clarity on how it will lead to a decline in pollution.The environment ministry said that the index would spark an improvement in urban air quality as it would enhance public awareness and involvement and create a competitive environment among cities to take steps for pollution mitigation. In countries like the US and China, the AQI is linked with area-specific health advisories and action to reduce air pollution. In Beijing, industries are closed and traffic is restricted in areas where air quality is labelled as “severe” on the index. Residents are also informed in advance about health facilities available in the neighbourhood.