Delhi braces for yet another air pollution-riddled winter

Garima Singh New Delhi | Updated on October 22, 2021

Fire crackers and stubble burning in the neighbourhood may worsen air pollution

With air pollution likely to touch dangerous levels, Delhiites may have to face another year of pollution. Delhi’s air quality remained in the moderate category on Friday. But according to the forecast by World Air Quality Index project, a non-profit project started in 2007, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital will worsen in the coming week, from a range of 69-138 on Friday to 159-186 by Monday.

Unhealthy category

This projection is based on data from the air quality around the US Embassy in New Delhi, one of the cleaner parts, with an AQI of 104 on Friday morning. Air quality varies throughout the day and across the city. At Anand Vihar, a busier area that houses a prominent inter-State bus terminal, the AQI on Friday noon was 135, which is in the unhealthy category.

This is despite the Delhi government’s various steps aimed at curbing air pollution in the State. These include measures such as stopping thermal power plants and pushing industries to switch to gas-based fuel.

According to statements from the government, some of these measures may also have yielded positive results. Another step they highlight is the supply of round-the-clock power to the national capital that eliminates the use of diesel gensets.

“The 2021 winter is starting with a cleaner threshold, compared to the previous years, largely due to the intense and prolonged effect of the monsoons. While winter pollution cannot be predicted at this moment, the evidence of rising summer pollution in 2021 despite the lockdown and the evidence of a synchronised effect of winter pollution across the Indo-Gangetic Plain add to our concern,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

How soon the winter pollution will hit will depend on the scale and speed of action across the region and leveraging it for more sustained air quality gains, she added.

Stubble burning

It is feared that fire crackers during Diwali in early November and stubble burning in Delhi’s neighbourhood will worsen the air pollution situation. Last week, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that stubble burning in neighbouring States has been on an upswing, which will adversely impact the air quality of Delhi.

Anticipating the same, the State government reiterated a ban on fire crackers on Friday. Acting on reports of illegal storage and sales of firecrackers being reported, the government has instructed all Sub Divisional Magistrates to organise anti-cracker campaigns throughout Delhi. They have also been empowered to take action against illegal sales.

The Delhi government, for now, seems to be banking on some of their ongoing efforts to tackle pollution. According to the State government, a smog tower in Central Delhi, which was set up in August, has also shown good results. “These will be studied more and maybe replicated in other parts of the city, as part of the plan; pollution hotspots have been identified, which will be monitored from the Green War Room,” said an earlier statement from the government.

On Friday, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee signed an agreement with IIT-Kanpur for a project aimed at identifying sources and forecasting air pollution in real time. This is expected to help identify the factors responsible for the spike in air pollution at any spot in Delhi. It will also help understand the real-time impact of various pollution sources like vehicles, dust, biomass burning, stubble burning, and emissions from industries.

While announcing the agreement, Delhi’s Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, said that the State government will be able to take the necessary actions to curb the sources of pollution based on the results obtained from this project.

Delhi also started an Anti-Dust Campaign for October, aimed at curbing pollution from construction sites. There have also been efforts to issue more challans the polluting vehicles.

Published on October 22, 2021

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