New system to measure air quality

• India is tying up with the United States and Finland to develop a pollution-forecast system that will help anticipate particulate matter (PM) levels at least two days in advance and at a greater resolution than what is possible now.

• The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be coordinating this exercise and the plan is to have a system in place by winter.

• The new system, to be jointly developed with expertise from the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the U.S.’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will use a different modelling approach as well as computational techniques from that employed in the SAFAR model.

=> Current System

• Currently, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), run out of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, serves as the apex forecaster of pollution trends in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad. It generates a likely air quality profile, a day in advance, for these cities.

=> About SAFAR

• The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Government of India, has introduced the System of Air Quality Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).

• It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.

• It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.

• The World Meteorological Organization has recognised SAFAR as a prototype activity on the basis of the high-quality control and standards maintained in its implementation.

• The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among the general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for the betterment of air quality and related health issues.

=> Air Quality Index

• AQI is a number used to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become.

• Different countries have their own air quality indexes, corresponding to different national air quality standards.

• There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.

• Each of these categories is decided based on ambient concentration values of air pollutants and their likely health impacts (known as health breakpoints).

• AQ sub-index and health breakpoints are evolved for eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb).

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