National Air Quality Resource Framework of India (NARFI)

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    • Recently, Principal Scientific Adviser inaugurated a Brainstorming Workshop at India International Centre, New Delhi to kick start an ambitious National Mission on “National Air Quality Resource Framework of India (NARFI).

    About National Air Quality Resource Framework of India (NARFI)

    • Development: It is developed by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru with the support from the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.
    • Aim: The framework will provide an all-inclusive guide to collecting air quality data, studying its impact and implementing science-based solutions.
    • Features
      • The NARFI is an information mechanism to help decision-makers in government, municipalities, and start-ups and in the private sectors to address air pollution issues in different climatic zones of India.
      • Research-based audited Information and industry-oriented solutions will be shared in an easy-to-understand format.
    • Training: The short-term basic training modules tailored for different groups such as active ground level staff in government establishments, implementers, media and policymakers, would be an integral part of the framework.
    • Themes
      • THEME-1: Emission Inventory, Air Shed, and Mitigation
      • THEME-2: Impacts on Human Health and Agriculture
      • THEME-3: Integrated Monitoring, Forecasting and Advisory Framework
      • THEME-4: Outreach, Social Dimension, Transition Strategy and Policy
      • THEME-5: Solutions, Public-Industry Partnership, Stubble Burning & New Technologies.
    • Need?
      • We are largely dependent on the models created in the west to tackle this problem.
      • The NARFI will enable knowledge creation, developing infrastructure and industrial structures and studying its effects on human health in the country which is India specific.
      • Lack of integrated information: There is absence of authenticated and integrated information on air quality in the country. To fulfil this vacuum, a science-based integrated air quality resource framework is needed.

    What is Air pollution?

    • Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that is detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.
    • Source of Air Pollution
      • Nitrogen dioxide: It is one of the major pollutants and major sources of NOx include emissions from motor vehicle exhaust, industrial facilities, and chemical solvents.
      • Agriculture & Allied Sources: Ammonia (NH3) -It is another gaseous pollutant that is monitored.
        • It occurs naturally in air, soil and water, and is used as an agricultural fertiliser and in cleaning products.
        • Short-term inhalation of high levels of ammonia can cause irritation and serious burns in the mouth, lungs and eyes.
    • Stubble burning: It is also one of the major sources of air pollution in northern India, especially in winters.
    • Sulphur dioxide (SO2): They emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels have, historically, been the main component of air pollution in many parts of the world.
      • The largest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is burning fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities.
      • Short-term exposure to SO2 can harm the respiratory system, making breathing more difficult.
    • Particulate Matter:  Particulate matter (PM) are inhalable and respirable particles composed of sulphate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water.
      • Both PM2.5 and PM10 are capable of penetrating deep into the lungs but PM2.5 can even enter the bloodstream, primarily resulting in cardiovascular and respiratory impacts, and also affecting other organs. 
      • In 2013, outdoor air pollution and particulate matter were classified as carcinogenic by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
    • Carbon monoxide (CO): It is a toxic, colourless and odourless gas, given off when fuel containing carbon, such as wood, coal and petrol, are burned.
      • Major sources of methane include waste and fossil fuel and agricultural industry.
    • Ozone (O3): It occurs both in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level. At the ground, O3 is created by the chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds.
      • It is formed when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, refineries and other sources chemically react in presence of sunlight.
      • It can trigger a variety of health problems, including chest pain, throat irritation and airway inflammation.

    Associated risks 

    • Air pollution is a threat to health in all countries, but it hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest. 
    • Every year, exposure to air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million premature deaths and result in the loss of millions more healthy years of life. 
    • In children, this could include reduced lung growth and function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma. 
    • In adults, ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature death attributable to outdoor air pollution, and evidence is also emerging of other effects such as diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions.
    • This puts the burden of disease attributable to air pollution on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking.
    • There is a body of scientific evidence to prove that air pollution is leading to severe health impacts and 90% of the entire global population is breathing polluted air.

    Steps Taken by Government

    • The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG program and other schemes have helped to dramatically expand access to clean energy, especially for rural households.
    • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
      • It was launched in 2019) now renamed National Clear Air Mission which aims to reduce the particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) concentrations in the air by 20–30% by 2024.
    • Commission for Air Quality Management
      • The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas, 2020 — with a provision for a fine of Rs 1 crore and/or jail for 5 years for those violating air pollution norms.

    Way forward/ Suggestions

    • Stakeholders: There is a need to bring together all stakeholders from government, industry and citizens. Tackling pollution is a complex and multi-dimensional problem which will require researchers, government officials and citizens to come-together.
    • Integrated approach: Solutions to the problem will require an integrated multi-sectoral science and technology approach while also addressing the social aspect of the problem.
    • Cooperation: It was stressed that there is a need to have close cooperation between researchers and industries in order to get faster solutions.
    • Linking reduction of air pollution in the health and agriculture sectors is important for citizens to understand the gravity of the situation and solutions for the same.
    • Enhance general awareness: All these steps can help enrich communication and enhance general awareness, leading to self-mitigation.

    Source: PIB