New Delhi: The environment ministry on Tuesday said that it will increase the number of air quality monitoring stations across Delhi to 31 from 21 in a bid to gain a more comprehensive picture of air pollution in the national capital. Currently air pollution data is available only from 10 stations.

“We aim to increase the monitoring stations to 31. The main reason behind this planned expansion is to comprehensively cover the whole national capital. Otherwise, a wrong picture is painted of national capital. Pollution is definitely bad in the city but not as bad as it has been made out to be," said a senior environment ministry official.

The official said that air quality may be very poor for instance at busy intersections like the ITO crossing but that doesn’t mean it will be same in posh localities like Chanakya Puri or Narela in outer Delhi area.

Many reports have labelled Delhi as the world’s most polluted city. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study, 13 Indian cities figure among the 20 most polluted cities of the world. The National Green Tribunal had recently passed many orders to check air pollution in the national capital region.

The ministry also plans to start measuring air quality across 66 cities in the country, which will include 20 state capitals. Currently, the National Air Quality Index (NAQI), launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, monitors air quality in 10 cities - Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Faridabad, Kanpur, Agra, Varanasi, Lucknow and Bengaluru.

The ministry is also looking for ways to generate revenue for the upkeep of these monitoring stations. The government had on 1 May started issuing daily bulletin explaining the NAQI data through the Central Pollution Control Board website.

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