Air pollution severe, bleak winter likely

The city’s air qua lity deteriorated sharply on Tuesday morning with many residents complaining of a “choking feeling“. In conges ted areas like Mandir Marg and Anand Vihar, the levels of fine, respirable particles (PM 2.5) hovered between 200 and 500 micrograms per cubic met re from 9am to 12pm, which is 3 to 8 times the national ambient air standard for 24 hours.

The air quality improved marginally later in the day but turned worse again in the eve ning, possibly due to conges tion. Delhiites have been bre athing in foul air since Octo ber 27. Some monitoring sta tions are showing “severe“ level of pullution, especially in peak traffic hours, accor ding to Centre’s Air Quality In dex (AQI). Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) data reveals that even the daily averages have reached dange rous levels.

On November 2 for instan ce, the PM 2.5 average for Pun jabi Bagh and Anand Vihar was 331 micrograms per cubic metre and 283 micrograms per cubic metre, respecyiovely . The immediate reasons for such a massive jump in pollu tion levels is a combination of factors, including the Punjab farm fires, local emissions and meteorological conditions.

“This time of the year winds are usually north-easterly . Ho wever, due to a western distur bance, winds for a small period became westerly . The winds carried particles from the farm fires. Temperature dropped due to WD, which brought the boundary layer down leading to a huge spike (in pollution levels),“ said Gufran Beig, project director, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).

But experts fear that blaming it only on farm fires will be misleading as local emissions will continue to be a major contributor to the toxic air of the city. In the absence of any large-scale intervention to deal with emissions from the transport sector and due to the non-compliance with the Supreme Court order to levy a pollution tax on trucks plying through Delhi, there will be no improvements in air quality this year. The unusual surge in the PM 2.5 levels was seen last year too, which led to a public campaign calling for action.

“Last year we had analysed the pollution data and found there were 12 episodes of severe air quality where three consecutive days were highly polluted. Not all of them were due to farm fires obviously . The government has not put in emergency reaction like Beijing and other cities where agencies react to each episode by shutting industries, closing schools, etc,“ said Vivek Chattopadhyay of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).air

He added there is no way to find out what steps the government has taken to clean Delhi’s air. “Although they have announced a number of steps, it’s very difficult to assess at what scale they have been imp lemented. How many visibly polluting vehicles have been challaned for instance,“ he said.

Farm Fires, Transport Emissions Worsen Air Quality; People Complain Of `Choking Feeling’

There has been no respite from diesel emissions either.According to the transport department data, 34,261diesel vehicles were registered in the first five months of this year, which is more than 40% of the total registrations done in the corresponding period last year.

A study commissioned to IIT Kanpur by Delhi govern ment on sour ces of air pol lution in Delhi is also pen ding. “The in terim report says there are multiple pol lutants dominating in Delhi with each having their own characteristic.The final report on which source contributes how much will come soon,“ Ashwani Kumar, secretary , environment department told TOI. On Tuesday , CM Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting with various agencies and directed environment minister Imran Hussain to take up the farm fire issue with Punjab and Haryana.

Source: TOI 04 Nov’2015