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Thursday, December 03, 2020

Delhi inches towards odd-even as pollution touches emergency levels

Under GRAP, an emergency level of pollution is considered when concentration of PM 2.5 or PM10 — fine inhalable particles suspended in the air — crosses the threshold of 300 and 500 micrograms per cubic metre air (µg/m3).

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: November 11, 2020 7:09:39 am
Stubble burning, crackers on Diwali and dip in mercury made Delhi's air quality worse than last NovemberSAFAR data shows that in 2019, between October 8 and December 9, the share of stubble burning to PM 2.5 levels in Delhi was higher than 15% on six days. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

With a 24-hour AQI reading of 476, air pollution in Delhi and NCR has persisted to be in the emergency level for more than 48 hours as of Tuesday. No immediate respite has been forecast by government agencies.

Arvind Nautiyal, member of the recently formed Commission on Air Quality Management, Tuesday asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) chairman in a letter to implement measures under the Union Environment Ministry’s Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) — which recommends implementation of the odd-even road rationing scheme, stopping construction activities and entry of trucks into Delhi when air quality is under ’emergency’ level.

“Till a mechanism is set up by the Commission, as an interim measure, CPCB is entrusted with the task of operationalising and monitoring GRAP measures, until further orders,” the letter sent by Nautiyal, copied to chief secretaries of four NCR states, read.

Asked if emergency measures under GRAP will be implemented, CPCB chairman S D Meena told The Indian Express, “We will hold an internal meeting tomorrow morning and we will do it.” Union environment secretary RP Gupta also said GRAP will be implemented.

Explained | How will NGT ban on sale and use of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR impact Haryana?

The construction ban and odd-even road rationing scheme had been implemented in Delhi when pollution levels spiked in previous years, under directions of the Delhi government and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) — which was dissolved last month after the formation of the new Commission.

Under GRAP, an emergency level of pollution is considered when concentration of PM 2.5 or PM10 — fine inhalable particles suspended in the air — crosses the threshold of 300 and 500 micrograms per cubic metre air (µg/m3). This threshold was crossed in Delhi-NCR, most recently, on November 8 at 4 pm, as per CPCB data.

The 24-hour exposure limit of PM 2.5 is 60 µg/m3, while that of PM 10 is 100 µg/m3. Their levels had peaked at 644 µg/m3 and 779 µg/m3 Tuesday afternoon in the region before it reduced, but still remained above the emergency threshold as of 9 pm.

Delhi’s AQI has remained severe since November 5, which impacts healthy population and “seriously impacts” people with pre-existing health conditions, as per the CPCB.

Factors that are causing air quality to deteriorate are high moisture levels, calm winds, and intrusion of pollutants from stubble burning states into Delhi’s air. A bulletin from the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ (MoES) air quality monitor SAFAR said the share of PM 2.5 in Delhi’s air from stubble burning — noticed in Punjab, Haryana, UP, Uttarakhand — was around 22%. “Extremely calm local surface winds continued to arrest all old and new accumulated pollutants (in Delhi)… Due to favourable transport-level wind direction and speed, until today morning, significant stubble burning-related intrusion took place,” the SAFAR bulletin said.

However, on Tuesday, wind direction over Delhi changed from northwesterly — which favours transport of stubble burning pollutants — to easterly, which is expected to reduce contribution of farm fires.

The MoES Air Quality Early Warning System (EWS) for Delhi has forecast that air quality is likely to remain severe on Wednesday, and between severe to very poor on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Gurgaon District Magistrate Tuesday issued directions banning the “sale and use of firecrackers of all types in the district”.

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