Air Quality In Delhi-NCR Dips To 'Very Poor' Level
As the air quality in the national capital dipped to ‘very poor’ level, the Delhi government brought in the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) into force on October 15, 2019. Under the plan, stricter anti-pollution measures would be set in practice, depending on the severity of the situation. Also, there has been a blanket ban on the use of generators even in cities of Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Sonepat, Panipat and Bahadurgarh.
According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (Safar), the spike in air pollution in the city is because of stubble burning incidents in Haryana, Punjab, and nearby border regions that have shown an increasing trend over the past 24 hours. The Delhi government has also shared NASA satellite images that showed 'large scale stubble burning' in adjoining states of Delhi.
The overall Air Quality Index on October 15, 2019, in Dwarka Sector 8, Delhi Technological University, Mundka, Rohini, Anand Vihar and Bawana was 359, 343, 342, 319, 313, and 307, respectively. The overall AQI stood at 275 at 6.30 pm. The air quality in neighbouring Ghaziabad (316), Greater Noida (308) and Loni Dehat (307) also dipped to "very poor" level.
An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'.
However, the India Metereological Department had said the city's air quality was likely to improve due to changing weather conditions.
Construction-demolition biggest contributors of air pollution
Data available with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) show that construction-demolition activities are the biggest contributor to bad air condition in Delhi and its surrounding areas. Garbage burning, traffic congestion, road dust were some of the other contributors.
The analysis covers the period between December 2018-February 2019.
External factors doing much harm
The neighbours are only making matters for the national capital. According to a study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Automotive Research Institute of India (ARAI), 64 per cent of the city's air pollution is caused by external factors.
The study also indicates which sectors contribute the highest to air pollution in Delhi. The study involves using the dispersion method which is adopted to develop and test appropriate strategies to control pollution in the state. The receptor model involves collection of particulate samples at 20 predefined locations. It is by far a good experiment to analyse sectorial contribution of pollution.
Here is what came of these experiments.
Delhi's PM2.5 Contributions [in %] in both seasons
Dust [Soil, Road & Construction]
As for PM10 levels, here is what the experiment revealed.
Delhi’s PM10 Contributions [in %] in both seasons
The daily permissible level of PM2.5 and PM10 are 60 g/m3 and 100 g/m3, respectively, as per the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. But, the average (summer-winter) of PM2.5 stood at 109 μg/m3 and PM10 levels stood at 134 μg/m3 in 2016. If environment-friendly norms are implemented, for example, such as BS-VI norms, LPG penetration, gaseous pollutant control standards in industries, zig-zag technology for brick kilns, etc., the pollution levels can be brought down to an extent. But, the study says that by 2030, PM10 levels may go up to 165 μg/m3 while PM2.5 levels may also jump to 118 μg/m3. In short, far more needs to be done if pollution has to be managed.
The study also reveals that the average contribution of Delhi's own emissions in Delhi PM2.5 concentrations was found to be at 36 per cent in the winter and 26 per cent in the summer with variations in different places of the city. In a previous study, TERI also said that regions beyond the national capital region contribute up to 40 per cent of the particulate matter in Delhi’s air, where crop residue burning scores as a major contributor.
“We must realise that a well-rounded action plan for Delhi can never be fully implemented if the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have no plans of their own to improve air quality. For that, coordination between the state governments is prime,” says R Suresh, area convener, Centre for Environmental Studies.
With over one crore vehicles in Delhi, the Supreme Court has suggested that there should be a “Hum do hamare do” policy for vehicles as well. Given that each year, the national capital adds seven lakh new vehicles on the roads, this could be a threat to Delhi’s liveability quotient. Worse, unregistered vehicles in the NCR have added to the menace. As of now, there is a cap on the number of autorickshaws plying in Delhi which stands at one lakh.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has suggested that parking in residential localities will also be chargeable. Various localities have already started following it. The SC had previously quashed this suggestion but this time the EPCA suggests that the local agency/Resident Welfare Association/shopkeeper’s association can decide the pricing but it should be based on charging differential and higher rates for additional cars. Delhi Police must ensure enforcement of rules as well.