Air quality in Delhi over the past 14 days has been better than 10 NCR cities and towns in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
The daily average air quality index (AQI) data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), analysed by The Indian Express, shows the 14-day average AQI of Delhi was 256 as of Thursday. This was much lower than the average AQIs of UP’s Baghpat, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar and Greater Noida, which were in the range of 271-305; Haryana’s Ballabhgarh, Faridabad, Jind and Panipat, in the range of 261-273; and Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi, which was 300. At 242, only Gurgaon’s 14-day average AQI was lower than Delhi’s.
The number of ‘very poor’ air days — AQI between 300 and 400 — was also higher in 10 NCR towns as compared to Delhi, which had just 1 in the past 14 days. UP’s Baghpat had seven ‘very poor’ air days, highest among 10 NCR towns analysed. Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi was the second highest with six such days, followed by Panipat and Muzaffarnagar, with five each.
High levels of air pollution is witnessed every year in Delhi-NCR from October until around February, as a result of local sources of emissions, stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, and unfavourable meteorological conditions such as low wind speed and low temperatures.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had recently said the issue of air pollution is not of Delhi alone but that of an airshed that covers NCR areas of UP, Haryana and Rajasthan. An airshed can be described as a geographical region which shares a common flow of air.
Pollution control boards of Delhi, Haryana and UP have been taking several measures to control air quality in their areas, including mechanised sweeping and frequent water sprinkling on roads, dust control measures at construction sites and night patrolling to check industrial emissions and waste burning. Fifty teams of the CPCB are also conducting regular inspections to keep a check on polluting activities in Delhi-NCR.
Haryana State Pollution Control Board member secretary S Narayanan said the reason behind higher AQI in Panipat and Ballabhgarh is local as road-side construction activities were happening near air quality monitoring stations until recently. “There is no reason for air quality to be worse than Delhi… We have issued directions to the regional officer to take action and stop the activities; otherwise, monitoring stations provide a biased picture,” he said.
Praveen Kumar, Noida regional officer of the UP Pollution Control Board, said teams of the board and district administration are keeping a strict vigil on ground to prevent polluting activities: “We are taking all measures to ensure local sources of emissions do not increase — ensuring industries use only permissible fuels, mechanised sweeping and water sprinkling and not allowing any construction activity without anti-smog guns.”
Delhi has largely been the focus of the annual winter-time fight against air pollution. But over the past few years, the city has been able to take measures which other NCR towns could not. This includes banning use of diesel generator sets for a third year in a row October 15 onwards, under directions from the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).
Haryana has been struggling to ban DG sets for a second year, as the government informed EPCA last week that around 14,000 residents of Gurgaon and Faridabad will not get electricity if gensets are not allowed. EPCA had asked for an affidavit from Haryana, giving time schedules of when colonies dependent on DG sets would be connected to the electricity grid.
On Thursday, EPCA member Sunita Narain said, “EPCA has received communication from government that they are finalising deadlines and getting affidavits from builders. CM has called a meeting tomorrow to finalise the deadline, which will then be given to EPCA. We will then respond.”
UP had also struggled to ban gensets last winter in Ghaziabad and Noida. However, Kumar Thursday said the ban is in place in both cities this year.
Delhi’s average AQI worsened in the ‘poor’ category Thursday with a reading of 296, higher than 256 on Wednesday. A forecast from the Centre’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said, “It is forecast that the air quality will be ‘poor’ to marginally ‘very poor’ on October 23 and 24.”
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