2021 GS3 Answer

Q. Describe the key points of the revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) recently released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). How are these different from its last update in 2005? What changes in India’s National Clean Air Programme are required to achieve these revised standards ?

Question from UPSC Mains 2021 GS3 Paper

Model Answer: 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released its revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs), which provide recommendations for safe levels of air pollution exposure to protect human health. The guidelines are intended to inform policy decisions and guide efforts to improve air quality around the world.

Key Points of the Revised Global Air Quality Guidelines:

The revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) include the following key points:

  • Stricter Standards: The new guidelines recommend stricter standards for six key air pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and benzene. The recommended safe levels for these pollutants have been reduced compared to the previous guidelines.
  • Focus on Health Impacts: The guidelines emphasize the health impacts of air pollution, particularly on vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing health conditions. They also recognize the links between air pollution and a range of health outcomes, including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death.
  • Addressing Emerging Pollutants: The new guidelines also address emerging pollutants, such as microplastics and pollutants from e-waste burning.
  • Integrated Approach: The guidelines recommend an integrated approach to addressing air pollution, including measures to reduce emissions from various sources, such as transport, industry, and households. They also emphasize the need for monitoring and evaluation to track progress towards reducing air pollution.

Differences from the Previous Guidelines:

The revised Global Air Quality Guidelines differ from the previous guidelines in several ways:

  • Stricter Standards: The new guidelines recommend stricter standards for key pollutants, reflecting the growing evidence of the health impacts of air pollution.
  • Focus on Health Impacts: The new guidelines place a greater emphasis on the health impacts of air pollution, particularly on vulnerable populations.
  • Addressing Emerging Pollutants: The new guidelines address emerging pollutants that were not included in the previous guidelines.

Changes Required in India’s National Clean Air Programme:

India, which is one of the countries with the highest levels of air pollution, will need to make significant changes to its National Clean Air Programme to achieve the revised air quality guidelines. Some of the key changes required include:

  • Stricter Emission Standards: India will need to adopt stricter emission standards for key pollutants, particularly for vehicles and industries.
  • Promoting Clean Energy: India will need to promote clean energy, such as solar and wind power, to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and reduce air pollution from the energy sector.
  • Encouraging Sustainable Transport: India will need to promote sustainable transport, such as public transport, cycling, and walking, to reduce emissions from the transport sector.
  • Improving Monitoring and Evaluation: India will need to improve its monitoring and evaluation of air quality to track progress towards achieving the revised air quality guidelines.

Conclusion:

The revised Global Air Quality Guidelines provide an important framework for improving air quality and protecting human health. The guidelines recommend stricter standards for key pollutants and place a greater emphasis on the health impacts of air pollution. India, which is one of the countries with the highest levels of air pollution, will need to make significant changes to its National Clean Air Programme to achieve the revised standards, including adopting stricter emission standards, promoting clean energy, encouraging sustainable transport, and improving monitoring and evaluation.

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