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SAFAR System: Delhi air in trouble again

Context:

Delhi’s air quality deteriorated from ‘moderate’ to ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ according to the SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) system of the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Pollution Control and Management, Environmental Degradataion)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the recent changes in Delhi Air quality
  2. About System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR)
  3. National Air Quality Index (AQI) in India

About the recent changes in Delhi Air quality

  • Delhi’s air typically worsens in October-November and improves by March-April every year due to weather amongst other reasons.
  • Current weather conditions are not unfavourable, unlike in winter. Hence, apart from local emissions, the deterioration in air quality is being attributed to an increase in fire counts, mostly due to burning of wheat crop stubble in northern India.
  • Fires were also spotted Lahore, Gujranwala and Hafizabad in Pakistan which can contribute to deterioration of air quality.
  • Deteriorating air quality is worrying amid an increasing number of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and deaths. Medical experts have, from time to time, raised concerns about how high pollution levels can worsen the situation and aggravate respiratory conditions of the public.

About System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR)

  • The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) is a national initiative introduced by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city, by measuring the overall pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city.
  • The system is indigenously developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and is operationalized by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • It has a giant true color LED display that gives out real-time air quality index on a 24×7 basis with color-coding (along with 72 hours advance forecast).
  • The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among the general public regarding the air quality in their city so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up.
  • It organizes awareness drive by educating the public (prompting self-mitigation), and
  • It also helps the policy-makers to develop mitigation strategies keeping in mind the nation’s economic development.
  • SAFAR is an integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi.
  • It monitors all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction, UV radiation, and solar radiation.
  • Pollutants monitored: PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, and Mercury.
  • The World Meteorological Organization has recognized SAFAR as a prototype activity on the basis of the high-quality control and standards maintained in its implementation.
  • SAFAR system would benefit cost savings to several other sectors like agriculture, aviation, infrastructure, disaster management, tourism, etc. which directly or indirectly gets affected by air quality and weather.

National Air Quality Index (AQI) in India

  • AQI was launched in 2014 with outline ‘One Number – One Color -One Description’ for the common man to judge the air quality within his vicinity.
  • It has been launched for monitoring the quality of air in major urban centers across the country on a real-time basis and enhancing public awareness for taking mitigative action.
  • AQI has six categories of air quality. These are: Good, Satisfactory, Moderately Polluted, Poor, Very Poor and Severe.

The measurement of air quality is based on eight pollutants, namely,

  1. Particulate Matter (PM10),
  2. Particulate Matter (PM2.5),
  3. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2),
  4. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2),
  5. Carbon Monoxide (CO),
  6. Ozone (O3),
  7. Ammonia (NH3), and
  8. Lead (Pb).

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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