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Farm fires down but Delhi’s air quality set to turn ‘very poor’

In the past two days, Delhi's air quality index (AQI) had improved significantly, reaching moderate on Friday from severe on Wednesday, owing to strong winds which flushed out pollutants.

Written by Shivam Patel | New Delhi | Updated: November 29, 2020 10:50:03 am
Farm fires down but Delhi’s air quality set to turn ‘very poor’Since November 23, the share of pollutants from farm fires in Delhi’s air has remained between 1% to 6% and was 4% Saturday. (File photo)

Emissions from farm fires have reduced significantly over the last week, bringing Delhi-NCR’s local sources of air pollution into focus as air quality is forecast to turn very poor by Tuesday.

In the past two days, Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) had improved significantly, reaching moderate on Friday from severe on Wednesday, owing to strong winds which flushed out pollutants.

Prior to last week, smoke from agricultural residue burning in Punjab and Haryana had contributed up to 42% to Delhi’s PM2.5 levels — fine particles suspended in the air — over October and November, as per the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ (MoES) air quality monitor SAFAR.

Since November 23, the share of pollutants from farm fires in Delhi’s air has remained between 1% to 6% and was 4% Saturday.

V K Soni, head of IMD’s Environment Monitoring and Research Centre (EMRC), said, “The reason behind deterioration of Delhi-NCR’s air quality, as forecast, includes local meteorological factors and local emissions along with reduction in wind speed and low temperatures. External sources of emission are almost nil by now.”

Data from the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre showed over 76,000 fire counts were recorded this stubble burning season in the state as of November 24, highest since 2016 when there were over 81,000.

Besides the annual post-monsoon crop residue burning in northwest India, studies have shown there are several local sources of air pollution within Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) including road dust, vehicular emissions, construction activities, waste burning and industrial emissions.

Air pollution experts and Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar have previously said the issue of air pollution is not of Delhi alone but that of an airshed that includes the NCR.

Experts have said pollution control measures being taken in Delhi need to be replicated in the NCR as well to improve air quality.

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