AQI deteriorates further as crop burning, low wind speed trap pollutants

Air quality in the national capital deteriorated further into the “poor” category on Saturday as effects of crop stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab and low speed surface winds trapped pollutants.

According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), air quality index (AQI) till 4 pm was 222, up from Friday’s 216. The levels are within the “poor” category.

The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), a unit of the Union ministry of earth sciences, has forecast that the effect of stubble burning in neighbouring states in Delhi is expected to rise by 6% by October 15, which may result in further deterioration of air quality in the ‘very poor’ category.

“So far the effect from burning of stubble in Punjab and Haryana in Delhi is just around 2%. But, it is expected to rise to 6% by October 15 with the increase in the number of farm fires. However, the dip in air quality will be determined by weather conditions such as wind speed and upper wind direction,” said a statement issued by Safar on Saturday.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)-taskforce met with stakeholders to review the status of air quality in Delhi.

“About 10-20 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5 in overall air quality of Delhi is attributable to stubble burning. Due to monsoon withdrawal, winds are calm leading to low dispersion of pollutants while wind direction has also changed to northwest, which is bringing smoke pollutants from burning to Delhi,” said V K Soni, senior scientist, IMD, as per a statement issued by the CPCB on Saturday.

The pollution watchdog has asked all agencies to step up patrolling and crackdown on violations such as dumping and burning of waste, open storage of construction material, dumping of debris and other demolition waste, use of dirty fuels and other such dust-control norms.

“Air quality is likely to remain poor during the next two-three days. All agencies have been asked to step up vigil and comply with all the measures to chat pollution,” said a senior CPCB official.

The AQI for this time of the year is still better in comparison to past few years, partly due to enough widespread moisture due to extended monsoon, it said.

On Thursday, Delhi’s air quality had for the first time slipped into the ‘poor’ category — AQI of 211 — this season, after the city breathing in three-months of good air.

Thursday’s pollution spike came a day after Delhi saw its cleanest post-Dussehra air in five years. Previously, Delhi had experienced poor levels of air pollution on July 14 when the AQI was recorded at 235.

AQI in the range of 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’.

The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority had also predicted a rise in the pollution levels in the city from October 12, and ordered the GRAP — set of emergency measures to combat ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ levels of pollution — will come into force from October 15.

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