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?

Sample Answer


Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) proposed new air quality standards to safeguard people’s health by lowering levels of major pollutants, some of which contribute to climate change. They include particulate matter (PM 2.5 & PM10), ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and carbon monoxide (CO).


Key Points of the revised Global Air Quality Guidelines:

Pollutant20052021(Upper Limit)
PM2.5 (Annual, 24 hours period)10 micrograms/m325 micrograms/m3 5 micrograms/m315 micrograms/m3 
PM 10(Annual, 24 hours period)20 micrograms/m350 micrograms/m3 15 micrograms/m345 micrograms/m3
Ozone (Peak Season, 8 hour)Not Applicable 60 micrograms/m3
Nitrogen oxide 40 micrograms/m325 micrograms/m3
Sulphur dioxide20 micrograms/m340 micrograms/m3
Carbon monoxide Not Applicable4 micrograms/m3

Changes that are required in India’s National Clean Air Programme:

  • Need for stronger mandate: NCAP is not legally binding, it will continue to be an advising programme. Legal support is needed not just to give state and local governments more enforceable mandates, but also to ensure inter-ministerial collaboration.
  • Need for Higher ambitions: The current NCAP goal levels would not result in breathing air quality in the country, since pollution levels are so high over most of the country that even a 30% decrease would still leave pollution levels beyond the NAAQS and WHO limits.
  • Need for fiscal strategy: If NCAP does not have a clear budgetary plan, it will be unsustainable in the long run. It’s also unclear whether the anticipated allocation (Rs.300 crore) is a one-time or ongoing support.


The time has come to build strategies that consider topographical, climatic, and other common elements that contribute to air pollution in the region.

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