Focus on local emissions to avoid return of polluted air
Rain and improved wind speed after Diwali, which removed much of the pollution accumulated from heavy stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and the explosion of biscuits in the city, could have given Delhi the boost that much needed in winters when air quality dips every year. However, experts cautioned that authorities should focus on local sources to ensure that the city does not fall again in an air emergency.
VK Soni, head of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) environmental monitoring research center, said the western disturbance, which began affecting the western Himalayas on Sunday, brought widespread and moderate rains to Delhi-NCR, which helped to Delhi to breathe cleaner air.
“The number of stubble fires detected in Punjab and Haryana is now almost negligible. With this western disturbance, two major pollution episodes have been solved, which means that now local sources of pollution and local climatic factors will be the ones contributing to any kind of change in air quality, ”Soni said.
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Analysis of AQI data shows that on Tuesday, for the first time since 2017, Delhi experienced a day of moderate air quality between November 13 and 17.
Delhi’s average Air Quality Index (AQI) on Tuesday stood at 171, in the moderate zone, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Additionally, the contribution of stubble fires to the city’s PM 2.5 levels (ultrafine particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns) was only 3%. It had peaked at more than 40% in October.
Experts said that while they share a common airshed, pollution from neighboring states contributes to deteriorating air quality in Delhi, but local factors cannot be ignored.
Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director (Research and Advocacy, Center for Science and Environment) said that while Delhi has been successful in bending the pollution curve year after year, there is still a lot to do to control pollution, especially in the cities. vehicle emissions and waste management areas.
“It cannot be denied that there has been work in areas such as the control of industrial emissions and fumes from heavy vehicles that cross the city, etc., but there are still two main areas in which efforts are required. One is the reduction of vehicle emissions, for which the authorities will have to go back to basics and work to increase public transport. The situation has become a bit complicated now with the limitations due to Covid-19, but this should be a long-term goal for the government, ”said Roychowdhury.
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He added: “Another area the government needs to focus on is waste management. In many unauthorized areas there is no adequate system to dispose of household waste and this waste ends up being dumped in dhaloas and burned ”.
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said Tuesday that the government is monitoring local sources of pollution and that Delhi’s air quality cannot be analyzed in isolation.
“We have said this time and time again, we do not deny that Delhi’s local pollution sources are a problem, but these sources were the same until August. The deterioration begins when the harvest season begins in Punjab and Haryana and farmers start burning stubble in their fields because they have no viable option to dispose of it, ”Rai said.
Enlisting the measures that the Delhi government is taking to control local sources of pollution, Rai said that from November 16 they started the second phase of the campaign ‘red light on, gaadi off’ (red light on, on off ), to control vehicle emissions. He also said that periodic meetings are being held with the municipalities to ensure that sprinkler irrigation and mechanized sweeping are carried out to avoid dust from the roads and the open burning of waste is controlled.
A 2019 analysis of Delhi’s sources of pollution by the Energy, Environment and Water Council showed that vehicular emissions contribute up to 39.2% of the city’s PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns). It is followed closely by roadside dust, with a contribution of 37.8%. At PM 10 levels (particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers), the contribution of road dust amounts to 65.9%, while the contribution of construction activities reaches 21%.
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Radha Goyal, Deputy Director of the Indian Pollution Control Association (IPCA) also said that vehicle emissions, construction activities and burning of waste are the main local sources of air pollution in Delhi during winters.
“The approach to managing winter pollution should be more preventive than responsive. There should be strict control of waste burning by municipalities in Delhi-NCR, and now that we have already practiced working from home during the Covid-19 shutdown, this could become a practice during critical winter periods. to avoid congestion on the roads. The stricter guidelines and controlled construction activities will also help reduce the impacts of local sources on the Delhi AQI during critical winter periods, ”said Goyal.