1. #1: National Air quality index (AQI): WHY?
    1. Features of new AQI
    2. Criticism of new Air Quality Index
  2. #2: SAFAR
  3. #3: Smog sucker Chinese Parafoil drone
  4. #4: Pthalates, Airfresheners and Pollution
  5. Mock Questions

National Air quality index (AQI): WHY?

  • Mains Relevance: GS3: Environmental Pollution.
  • Part of the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, Modi wants to inform public about the pollution and its ill-effects.
  • Presently, Government agencies publish air-quality data with  technical-jargon like PM2.5, PM10. Common man cannot understand.
  • The new Airquality index (AQI) will use color-coded table to show air-quality and its effect on health. Thus even common man can understand easily. Their USP being “One Number- One Colour-One Description.”

Features of new AQI

National Air Quality index

National Air Quality index, launched in 2014, October

  • Who? Environment and Central Pollution control board. (2014, October.)
  • Will be monitor air quality in 46 cities having above 10 lakh population + all state capitals.
  • After 5 years, entire India will be monitored.
  • Earlier index only monitored three parameters. New AQI will monitor 8 type of pollutants
  • For short-term 24 hours averaging period.
AQI will monitor these 8 pollutants to help UPSC examiner frame MCQs:
PM10 Coarse Pollutants with a diameter of 10 microns or less. Mostly from dust and smoke. Create breathing difficulty particularly among asthma patients and elderly.
  • Respirable particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. They float in air air for weeks, due to small size, thus smog and haze problem.
  • They go deep in lungs and even pass in blood.
  • Result? chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease.
  • For this index, London 16; Delhi 153 (smaller no. means cleaner air)
  • Nitrogen dioxide. Lung irritant. Harmful to textile fibres and metals.
  • Red haze in traffic
  • Damages plant leaves, slows down photosynthesis.
  • Asthama, bronchitis, emphysema etc. respiratory diseases
  • Eye irritation and tears.
  • Stiffness of flowerbuds. They fall from plant.
  • Carbon Monoxide binds with haemoglobin. Thus, Blood carries less oxygen. Result? headache, nausia, weak eyesight, premature birth, abortion, deformed babies.
  • Ozone is a toxic gas. Dryness of eyes, chestpain, cough.
  • Collectively Ozone, PAN, Nitric oxide, Formaldehyde result in “photochemical smog”.
  • Photochemical smog occurs when sunlight acts on vehicle pollutants
  • Photochemical smog=> rubber cracking, plant damages, metals corroded.
  • Ammonia in air + NOX, SOx=>PM 2.5 and PM 2.5 have very small size, they float in air for weeks=>smog and haze problem.
  • Ammonia in water=>Eutrophication, Algae blooms.
  • Lead Interferes with red blood cells.
  • Solution: use unleaded petrol

Based on above 8 pollutant levels, the air quality of given city, will be classified into following 6 color-coded categories.

6 categories of air quality
Category index Health impact
1.Good 0-50 minimal
2.satisfactory 51-100 Minor Breathing discomfort to sensitive people.
3.Moderately polluted 101-200 Breathing discomfort to asthma patents, elderly and children.
4.poor 201-300 Breathing discomfort to all
5.Very poor 301-400 Respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.
6.Severe 401-500 Health impact even on light physical work. Serious impact on people with heart/lung disease.

Criticism of new Air Quality Index

  1. Since 90s, industrial units have to install instruments to measure air-quality and send data to state pollution control boards. If too much pollution =>unit will be shut down.
  2. But Industrial units deliberately using India-made (faulty) machines to measure PM2.5. So reported number is less than actual pollution.
  3. Such Instrument manufacturers only need to declare “self-certification” that their machine meets quality standards. Government not doing checks on such products, by itself. (counter-argument: it’ll lead to inspector raj and bribery).
  4. They’ve prepared one index to be used uniformly for Entire India. We need separate indexes for residential vs industrial areas; cities vs towns vs villages.
  5. For example: in village air, methane high due to open compost pits and animal husbandry. YET under this index, village air-quality will be “good”, because methane not monitored.
  6. Doesn’t monitor Benzene. Benzene is a carcinogen chemical from Petrol and diesel. USA monitors its level.
  7. Mere informing the citizens through a color-coded table = insufficient. Need to include conditional safety protocols in it.
  8. For example, In China- if air quality index reaches red level, they shut down primary schools. Counter argument: Under US embassy’s Air quality index, Delhi is in purple category=one step more dangerous than Red. So Delhi will have to permanently shut down schools=>coaching business expands. Bigger holes in parents’ pockets.


Mains Relevance: GS3: Achievement of Indians, Indigenization of technology.

What is SAFAR?

  • SAFAR: System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR)
  • Computerized system jointly developed by
  • Indian institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune (under Ministry of Earth Science)
  • India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Benefits of SAFAR?

  • It can Quality of air can be forecasted 24-72 hours in advance.
  • it provides data on
  • Air Quality Index – health advisory
  • UV Index – skin advisory
  • Dynamic city pollution maps.
Timeline of Events
2010 SAFAR installed in Delhi, during common wealth games. Later in Pune and other cities.
2014, May WHO declares Delhi – the most polluted city on earth. Even bogus than Beijing.
2014, October  SAFAR scientists reported October 24 being worst air quality for Delhi and Pune.

Reason: Diwali Firecrackers. They increased quantity of PM2.5 particles 10 times above WHO-safe level. Therefore, Ex-Health minister Harsh Vardhan wanted “Silent Diwali”- to control both air pollution and noise-pollution.

#3: Smog sucker Chinese Parafoil drone

Mains Relevance: GS3: Sci-tech applications in everyday life; Awareness in Robotics.

Parafoil Drone

What? Drone. But basically Generator hanging from a parachute. It doesn’t have wings like a conventional drone.
Who? Aviation industry corp.China
Why? To clear out the smog, particularly near airports, so aeroplane can takeoff and land easily.
When 2014, March.


  • Parafoil Drone sprays a chemical.
  • Chemical freezes the PM2.5 particles, they become heavy and fall down on earth. Thus smog is cleared.
  • Single drone can carry ~700 kg of chemical, sufficient to cleanup a 5 square km area from smog. Main beneficiary: airports, tourist resorts etc.

Additional measures (from NCERT class11)

  • Plantation of Pinus, Juniparus, Quercus, Pyrus and Vitis. They can metabolise nitrogen oxide and reduce formation of photochemical-smog.

Theory: what is Smog?

Smoke + flog: two types
Classical smog Photochemical smog
Smoke + fog + SO2 Sunlight + hydrocarons+ NOX
Cool, humid climate Warm, dry, sunny climate
Reducing smog because chemically its reducing mixture. Oxidizing smog, because it has high concentration of

Pthalates, Airfresheners and Pollution

  • As such there is no dearth of pollutants but Topic appeared in November 2014 Hindu.
  • Air-fresheners use Phthalates to suspend the perfume molecules in the air for longer period of time. (from 1920s)
  • Phthalates suppress androgenic hormones, retard development in children.
  • USA already banned Phthalates in Toys and cosmetics. (2008). But still some air-freshener companies in third world use this chemical.
More harmful chemical in Air-freshener
Terpenes They react with ozone=> formaldehyde (Carcinogen)
Acetone Toxic to blood
Tolune Toxic to CNS (Central nervous system)
  • Asthma.
  • Benzene is a carcinogen.

Mock Questions


Q1. Consider following statements

  • (A) Air pollutants known as “PM2.5” increase the chances of heart diseases.
  • (R) These microparticles can penetrate deep in lungs and enter in blood circulation.

Answer choices

  1. Both correct and R explains A
  2. Both correct but R doesn’t explain A
  3. A correct but R Wrong
  4. R correct but A wrong.

Q2. Find incorrect statements about Phthalates

  1. They’re used in air-fresheners for their fruity-fragrance.
  2. They enhance androgenic hormones. Hence used in drugs to cure Turner’s syndrome.
  3. Both A and B
  4. Neither A nor B

Q3. find Correct statements about national air-quality index

  1. Monitors eight pollutants and classifies the air quality of given city into one of the eight categories.
  2. Will be implemented in all cities and towns of India from 2015 onwards.
  3. Both A and B
  4. Neither A nor B

Q4. Which of the following pollutants, will not be monitored in the national air quality index

  1. Ozone
  2. Lead
  3. Nitrous Oxide
  4. Sulfur Oxide

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 4
  3. Only 1
  4. Only 3 and 4

Q5. Which of the following are correctly matched?

  1. Ozone: Photochemical smog
  2. Sulfur Dioxide: Stiffness in flowerbuds
  3. Carbon Monoxide: Abortion

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. All of them

Q6. Which of the following can help reducing smog issue in Indian cities?

  1. Deploying drones to spray special chemicals to freeze PM2.5 particles in the air.
  2. Putting ban on Diwali crackers.
  3. Plantation of Pinus, Juniparus, Quercus, Pyrus and Vitis.

Answer choices

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2 and 3
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. All of them[/columnize]

GS3: Mains Questions

Answer following in 200 words:

  1. What is smog? Discuss its types and suggest remedies to prevent formation of smog.
  2. What policy initiatives have been taken to reduce air pollution in major cities of India? (Similar question on river pollution in 1993).
  3. Discuss importance of following in 100 words each (1)  SAFAR technology (2) Parafoil Drones.
  4. Write a note on the features, benefits and shortcoming of the national Air quality index (AQI).

Correct Answers for MCQs

  1. A: Both right and R explains A
  2. C:Both are wrong.
  3. D: neither correct.
  4. D: 3 and 4 will not be monitored.
  5. D: all of them correctly matched as per NCERT Chemistry class11, chapter 14.
  6. D: all of them can help.