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Opinion

Adverse weather conditions and local sources of pollution push Delhi into ‘very poor’ area

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The stubble-burning season is almost over, and Diwali has come and gone, but Delhi’s air quality took a sharp turn for the worse on Tuesday, highlighting the role played by climate and local sources of pollution that ensure the capital’s air remain largely unhealthy. of the year, with agricultural fires, especially in Punjab, and fireworks during Diwali, causing temporary spikes.

The city’s air quality index (AQI) was set Tuesday at 379, in the “very poor” area, based on the 24-hour moving average of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recordings at 4 pm. On Monday, the AQI was in the same range but with a reading lower than 302. Government agencies forecast that air quality could enter the “severe” zone on Wednesday.

While an AQI of 201-300 is considered “poor,” a reading of 301-400 is in the zone of “very poor” and is associated with respiratory diseases, especially in children and those exposed to bad air. An AQI of 400-500 is considered “severe” and presents serious health risks.

Data from the government on agricultural fires and experts indicated that the current deterioration in Delhi’s air was largely due to adverse weather conditions from the dispersion of pollutants and local pollution sources (such as road dust and construction dust, vehicle emissions and local trash burning), reaffirming the argument that the root of the city’s annual ordeal goes beyond the outburst of firecrackers on Diwali and the burning of stubble in neighboring states, two of the factors widely cited behind of the gloomy AQI readings in October-November.

To be sure, the fires tip you over the edge into dangerous territory.

Data from the CPCB showed that Delhi’s AQI has been in decline for the past week. There were 274 on Sunday, 251 on Saturday, 296 on Friday, 283 on Thursday and 211 on Wednesday.

VK Soni, head of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) environmental monitoring research center, said the new drop in air quality was mainly due to low wind speed (not conducive to dispersal of pollutants) and the high moisture content (conducive to the accumulation of contaminants).

“A western disturbance affecting the western Himalayan region (since Monday)it has also had its impact in Delhi. The winds were from the east until (Tuesday)late; they carried moisture. Therefore, the increase in air pollution levels is due to local factors and a reduction in wind speed. Air quality may hit severe levels tomorrow (Wednesday). However, we expect an improvement from November 26, when the wind speed is likely to increase after the passage of the western disturbance, ”Soni said.

Radha Goyal, Deputy Director of the Pollution Control Association of India (a non-governmental organization), said that while the burning of stubble contributes to the level of pollution in Delhi, local sources in the city cannot be ignored and need the proper care.

“The main local sources of air pollution in Delhi during winters are vehicular emissions, construction activities and burning of waste. In this critical period, when the weather is not favorable, we have to strictly enforce the measures to control these local sources so that the local sources in Delhi are controlled, ”Goyal said.

From November 5 to 10, the capital saw a streak of “severe” air days for six consecutive days. But the spread of pollution after Diwali was the fastest this year, compared to the past five years. The AQI went from “severe” to moderate in two days due to high wind speeds and rain in many parts of the city.

According to data from the CPCB, 189Agricultural fires were reported on Monday that contributed to 5% of Delhi’s pollution. This proportion was around 32% during the six-day period of “severe” air earlier this month.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, said that the burning of rice stubble has ended in Punjab. “In most of the agricultural area of ​​the state, the rabi season wheat crop was planted,” he said.

Krunesh Garg, a member-secretary of Punjab’s pollution control board, said that currently only a “negligible number” of agricultural fires are reported. “The total number of fire cases (in the state) reaching 76,000 is a matter of concern for us because it is substantially more than the number from last season (57,000). I want to highlight that the number of cases when they were verified on the ground were much lower than those reported by the satellite, “he said.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) of the think-tank Center for Science and Environment, said that while Delhi has, to some extent, managed to bend the pollution curve this season, levels are still around a “60 % higher “than acceptable limits.

“There is no doubt that Delhi cannot solve its pollution problem on its own because it shares a common air basin with states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, etc., where the sources of pollution are not controlled compared to the capital. . But with that said, law enforcement needs to get much better. Law enforcement agencies know exactly what to do when air quality reaches a certain level; it is clearly listed in Grap (Gradual Response Action Plan). All they need to do is make sure the measures are strictly enforced, ”said Roychowdhury.

In a significant move, the Union Ministry of the Environment incorporated the Commission for the Management of Air Quality in the National Capital Region and Adjacent Areas through an ordinance on October 29. Its goal is to implement a consolidated approach to monitor, address and eliminate the causes of air pollution in Delhi-NCR and surrounding areas. While doing so, the Center dissolved all ad-hoc committees and bodies created under court orders, including the Supreme Court-ordered Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), which had the task of overseeing the pollution control of the air at NCR since 1998.

M Kutty, chairman of the new panel, and Arvind Nautiyal, deputy secretary of the Environment Ministry and a full-time member of the commission, did not respond to HT’s calls on Tuesday.

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