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Biodiversity & Environment

Delhi Air Pollution

  • 01 May 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, according to the SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) system, Delhi’s air quality deteriorated from ‘moderate’ to ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’.

Key Points

  • Causes of Deteriorating Air Quality:
    • Delhi’s air typically worsens in October-November and improves by March-April. Current weather conditions are not unfavourable, unlike in winter.
      • During winter, cool and calm weather traps and spikes daily pollution, particularly in north Indian cities located in the Indo Gangetic Plain.
    • Hence, apart from local emissions, the deterioration in air quality is being attributed to an increase in fire counts, mostly due to burning of wheat crop stubble in northern India.
    • The most crucial reasons for the alarming levels of air pollution in Delhi include:
      • City’s landlocked geographical location.
      • Crop burning in neighbouring states (Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan).
      • Vehicular emissions.
      • Industrial pollution.
      • Large-scale construction activities.
  • Concerns:
  • Major Measures Taken:
    • Subsidy to farmers for buying Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) which is a machine mounted on a tractor that cuts and uproots the stubble, in order to reduce stubble burning.
    • The introduction of BS-VI vehicles, push for electric vehicles (EVs), Odd-Even as an emergency measure and construction of the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways to reduce vehicular pollution.
    • Implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). It is a set of curbs triggered in phases as the air quality deteriorates, which is typical of the October-November period.
    • Development of the National Air Quality Index (AQI) for public information under the aegis of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research

  • SAFAR is a national initiative introduced by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city, by measuring the overall pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city.
  • The system is indigenously developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and is operationalized by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among the general public regarding the air quality in their city so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up.
  • SAFAR is an integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi.
  • It monitors all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction, UV radiation, and solar radiation.
  • Pollutants Monitored: PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, and Mercury.

Way forward

  • The wheat season is not followed by intensive farm fires, unlike paddy harvesting, as managing wheat stubble is comparatively easy and wheat straw is processed into cattle feed by most farmers.
  • So instead of focusing on farm fires, Delhi should look at local emissions to control the air pollution.
  • Breathing clean air is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen. Therefore, human health must become a priority when it comes to tackling air pollution.

Source: DTE

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