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SC’s anti-Diwali ire
There are no firecrackers in the national Capital, still Delhi’s air quality has worsened three days ahead of Diwali and a week after the Supreme Court’s ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR. What has caused this deterioration in air quality? The Pioneer has tried to unravel the riddle.
The Pioneer’s probe has found out that it is not firecrackers that make the city breathless. Actually, several never-ending mega construction projects in the national Capital and untrammelled illegal construction in unauthorised colonies of Delhi and adjoining areas are choking the city. Construction dust has been found to be the major cause of the noxious PM-10 in polluted air that triggers respiratory and cardiac ailments.
The National Ambient Air Quality Index (NAAQI) on Monday flagged air quality in Delhi as “red”, indicating extremely polluted air. Values of Suspended Particulate Matters (SPMs) were several notches higher than the prescribed limit.
According to a 2014 report on construction dust by Delhi-based Jamia Millia Islamia, “PM-10 penetrates deeply into the lungs and causes a wide range of health problems, including respiratory illness, asthma, bronchitis and even cancer. An additional source of PM-10 on construction sites, apart from that generated by building materials and works, comes from the emissions of diesel-engine vehicles and heavy equipment used intensively in the construction industry.
“This is known as diesel particulate matter (DPM) that consists of soot, sulphates
and silicates, all of which readily combine with other toxins in the atmosphere, increasing health risks.”
For the Capital, there are four institutions to measure pollutant values: Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Central Pollution Control Board under the aegis of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), and US Embassy-run Real Time Ambient Air Quality Index.
Unsurprisingly, all four have marked pollutant values in the Capital well above safe limits. In a line, the apex court ban on firecrackers sale seems to have had no perceptible impact on air pollution.
During the early hours of the day, SAFAR coloured Delhi’s pollution map “red” while later in the afternoon the colour code was “orange” indicating a slight improvement in air quality due to wind speed and direction.
The SAFAR has marked value of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 at 223 micro cubic per gram and in its pollution forecast states values will fluctuate from 223 to 252 (µgm-3). The safe limit of PM 10 is 100 µgm-3. Environmentalists agree that the main source of PM-10 is construction dust. “PM-10 means aerodynamic diameter of particle 10 micrometer. In the construction industry, the major source of PM-10 is activities such as drilling, excavation, dressing, demolition, loading/unloading materials during transfer, construction equipment, diesel gensets and vehicles used in transportation of materials,” said Dr Kafeel Ahmad, Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia.
When asked how dust or loose construction material create problem in Delhi environment, Dr Ahmad said, “The infrastructure projects running in Capital if not using proper guidelines for the control of PM10, they additionally, adding the PM10 in Delhi’s environment.”
He said to assess the contribution of individual sources such road traffics, industries, construction work, domestic burning, power plants, landfills; thorough study of source apportionment is required.
“Since, it has not been studied so far, i.e., quantification of individual source is lacking. In maximum cases, environment protection guidelines are not followed properly from batch plant to construction sites,” Dr Ahmad said.
“Therefore dust lifted from there, comes to atmosphere and through wind transport to city towards dominating approaching wind direction. Furthermore, if atmosphere is moist that is relatively humid, the smaller size particles may form aerosols,” said Dr Ahmad while explaining the formation of SPMs in air.
While environmentalists say Delhi’s meteorological conditions are also responsible for escalating pollutants in air, he added that infact, meteorological parameters such as wind speed, wind direction, atmospheric stability, temperature, and pressure, relative humidity play major role in dilution of PM10 or PM2.5 in the atmosphere.
“They play crucial role in the dispersion (mixing and transport of PM10). In Delhi, the dominating wind direction is east to west or west to east throughout the year except a few days. Therefore, if construction work is going on in north direction of Delhi, obviously it will severely pollute Delhi with PM10.”
Meanwhile, at Anand Vihar, value of PM 10 was recorded at 365 µgm-3, in RK Puram area, value of PM 10 was recorded at 201 µgm-3 on Monday that is manifold higher than the prescribed limit.
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