City’s air turns very poor again, likely to worsen

| | New Delhi
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City’s air turns very poor again, likely to worsen

Sunday, 29 October 2023 | Staff Reporter | New Delhi

The air quality in Delhi slipped into “very poor” category on Saturday morning with Air Quality Index (AQI) level at 301 and is predicted to worsen further due to unfavourable meteorological conditions.

This is the second time the AQI has slipped into the very poor category this season.

As wind in the national Capital mainly comes in from the northwest direction and the number of farm fires in Punjab and Haryana has risen, the contribution of stubble burning to pollution concentration is expected to rise.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders have blamed the Modi Government for poor air quality in North India saying the Centre has no plan to tackle air pollution. 

On the other hand, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said on Saturday the number of stubble burning incidents recorded in neighbouring States so far is fewer than last year, and the overall contribution of farm fires to the city’s air pollution is expected to reduce.

However, he cautioned that air pollution may increase in the coming days due to unfavourable meteorological conditions.

The city’s average Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 301 at 12 noon, worsening from 261 on Friday, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.

The AQI was 286 in neighbouring Ghaziabad, 268 in Faridabad, 248 in Gurugram, 284 in Noida, and 349 in Greater Noida.

According to the Centre’s Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi, the city’s air quality deteriorated to the ‘very poor’ category due to slow wind speed at night and a dip in temperatures. 

The air quality is expected to remain very poor till the end of the month, it said.

Unfavourable meteorological conditions and a cocktail of emissions from firecrackers and paddy straw burning, in addition to local sources of pollution, push Delhi-NCR’s air quality to hazardous levels during winter.

According to an analysis conducted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the capital experiences peak pollution from November 1 to November 15 when stubble burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana peak. While Delhi is facing a sharp decline in air quality in the coming days, crucial data that helped the government prepare a strategy to mitigate the air pollution problem is missing.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, which provided data about the contribution of smoke from farm fires to Delhi’s air pollution, has not been providing updates, and associated officials are unaware of the reason.

Meanwhile, AAP’s Senior leader and National Spokesperson, Reena Gupta alleged that Modi government lacks any action plan to control the air pollution. She referred to a report indicating that out of the 50 most polluted cities in the world, 39 are in India, with 20 of them being in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh (UP). The AAP demanded a high-level meeting of all Environment Ministers from Northern states and the reopening of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting Research (SAFAR) website, in this Press Conference at the party headquarters.  Gupta said “the Aam Aadmi Party has two demands. The first demand is that a high-level meeting of all the Environment Ministers of the northern states should be convened. Tell us what actions you are going to take. The second demand is to reopen the SAFAR website because the public should know where the pollution is coming from and which government agencies are responsible.

“Despite having 39 of the most polluted cities, the central government is unwilling to take any responsibility. Our central government announced smart cities, but it is not prepared to take any responsibility,” she added.

Delhi environment minister said that the number of stubble burning incidents recorded in neighbouring states so far is fewer than last year, and the overall contribution of farm fires to the city’s air pollution is expected to reduce.  However, he cautioned that air pollution may increase in the coming days due to unfavourable meteorological conditions.

Only around 2,500 stubble burning incidents have been recorded so far, compared to 5,000 such cases during the same period last year, he told reporters here.  According to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Punjab, which accounts for the maximum number of cases of stubble burning every year, reported 49,922 farm fires in 2022, compared to 71,304 the previous year and 83,002 in 2020.

 The agrarian state logged 50,738 incidents of stubble burning in 2019, 59,684 in 2018, 67,079 in 2017, and 1,02,379 in 2016.

 Haryana recorded 3,661 farm fires in 2022, down from 6,987 in 2021 and 4,202 in 2020. The neighbouring state witnessed 6,364 incidents of stubble burning in 2019, 9,225 in 2018, 13,085 in 2017, and 15,686 in 2016.

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