What happened to India’s Air Quality Index?

Launched with much fanfare earlier this year, the National Air Quality Index was supposed to be India’s way of being more transparent with a major cause of health problems and death in the country.

It now seems the project is defunct. The NAQI website hosted by IIT Kanpur no longer works and there is no update on the main IIT-K website about why this might be. Even the Environment ministry still links to the non-existent page.

The entire world reported on the BJP’s initiative to be more forthcoming with air quality data in major cities. Indeed, we at Which Air Purifier were delighted when we learned of this project and we actively began tracking the air quality numbers.

It was supposed to be an easy way for citizens to find out about the air quality situation in their city. Now, we just have to rely on reports in the media.

There could be many reasons that the NAQI website is no longer functional. Perhaps the project ran out of money, perhaps the people behind the project moved on to something else, maybe too many resources were required to input the data. A cynic might say that the data was making India look so bad that the plug had to be pulled.

To be fair, the NAQI never really lived up to its hype. We often found huge discrepancies in the data. Even the media completely misinterpreted the data being provided, something we called them out on earlier this year. The fact was that many days went by with missing data, readings went off the charts for no apparent reason or sometimes the pollution levels were reported as zero.

The NAQI website was far from accurate or reliable with the data it provided. However, it was a step in the right direction.

Today, the citizens have to rely on reports from NGOs like Greenpeace which might have their own agenda. There’s also the US Consulate air quality index website, but the data is only available for five cities in the country and we know that air pollution isn’t limited to these cities.

For now, we just have to face the fact that winter time in India brings with it much higher air pollution. The most recent readings from the US Consulate website report numbers much higher than we are used to. Even cities like Chennai and Hyderabad which saw much lower levels of pollution over the summer, now have air pollution levels that are harmful for health.

air quality in major indian cities

With Delhi reporting an air quality index level of 393, the US Consulate has the following to say:

Serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.

This is not a good advert for a Government wanting to persuade more businesses to set up shop in India, or indeed to attract tourists to the capital which has so much rich heritage and so much to offer.