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Delhi gasps for breath: 972 fire calls already this month, PM 10 levels up

This was the 972nd distress call the Delhi fire department received this month. In April last year, the number of such calls was 164, according Delhi Fire Services data.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee , Kedar Nagarajan | New Delhi |
Updated: November 21, 2017 5:13:53 pm
delhi, delhi fire, fire, dumping yard, Delhi fire department, Delhi, fire department, dumping yard fire, delhi dumping yard fire, delhi news Fire at a garbage dump in Shalimar Garden, Sahibabad. Fires involving garbage, dry grass and dry leaves are common in summer. Praveen Khanna

A fire at dumping yard in Vasant Kunj sector E Thursday left people in jhuggis nearby complaining that they were finding it hard to breathe. “The fire started late last night, but was attended to only today. The fire was small, so it finally took only two fire tenders to douse it,” said Manoj, who lives in one of the jhuggis.

This was the 972nd distress call the Delhi fire department received this month. In April last year, the number of such calls was 164, according Delhi Fire Services data.

“Fires involving garbage, dry grass, dry leaves and bushes are a common phenomenon in summer. They usually happen naturally, or due to negligence of someone who may have thrown a cigarette butt or because of some glass that may have concentrated the sun’s rays,” said a fire department

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Such fires were reported at Jahapana Park and at Sahibabad Wednesday. Rakesh, a resident of Sahibabad, said, “The fire was in an area where a lot of waste is dumped even though it is not meant for the purpose. It was not a major fire, but many children have to cross the area while going to school. For them to breathe in those fumes is extremely harmful.”

According to a senior scientist from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), “Garbage and leaf burning is a definite contributor to particulates. Such fires contribute more significantly to the larger PM 10 particles, rather than the smaller PM 2.5 particles, which are associated more strongly with combustion and vehicular pollution.”

The scientist said with the launch of the Delhi government’s application to report garbage burning before the first phase of the odd-even scheme, increased awareness was created about this source of


Improved awareness has led to improved reporting of fires, the scientist added. Former Central Pollution Control Board member secretary Dr B P Sengupta said the increase in fires this year could be due to the high temperatures. “We are seeing very high temperatures this year, particularly during the day, compared to this time last year. This could be leading to a lot of sporadic fires, which could be responsible for the overall spike in fires.”

On the contribution of these fires to particulates, Dr Sengupta said, “When these fires are created, they generate smoke which comprises largely coarse particles and some small particles. They definitely contribute to the particulate load, but the extent of that contribution needs to be studied compared to other sources.”

In keeping with the spike in fires this year, the impact on PM 10 levels has gone up significantly this month. At R K Puram, between April 1-6, PM levels peaked at 328 microrgams per cubic metre (µg/m³).
Between April 7-11 and April 12-16, the peak levels of the large sized particles of size less than 10 microns dropped to 194 and 199 µg/m³, respectively. Between April 17-22, the peak levels spiked again to 346 µg/m³.

Between April 23-27, the levels of PM 10 observed the sharpest peak of 941 µg/m³. On April 28, the levels peaked at 428 µg/m³.

At Punjabi Bagh PM 10 levels between April 1-6 peaked at 174 µg/m³. A spike was noted in the period between April 7-11 and April 12-16, with levels reaching 202 and 377 µg/m³, respectively.
Between April 17-22 and April 23-27, the levels dipped to 329 and rose again to 415 µg/m³. On April 28, the levels spiked again, reaching 440 µg/m³.

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