Delhi Air Pollution has Changed National Capital to Gas Chamber

Delhi Air Pollution: The nation's capital is a gas chamber in November. This was not always the case with Delhi so what has happened in the last few years that decorated Delhi's AQI to be this toxic that people of the capital are suffering?
Delhi Air Pollution has Changed National Capital to Gas Chamber
Delhi Air Pollution has Changed National Capital to Gas ChamberImage Credit: AFP

Delhi Air Pollution: This year the national capital is covered with heavy smog and the people are suffering. Delhi wasn't always like this in November. What has changed all of a sudden that Delhi's air index has become so toxic around November?

Sanjay Banerjee, a Sports commentator who has been living in Delhi-NCR for the last 23 years said he has seen Delhi in good air quality. He affirms the fact that high pollution has become a significant problem only in the last decade.

He also said that he has stopped going out, has installed an air purifier at his home and wears a mask whenever he has to go out.

Delhi Air Pollution has Changed National Capital to Gas Chamber
Home AQI Monitor: Check Pollution Level in Your Room

Delhi winters were blue skies and good AQI

A decade ago the beginning of winter was with blue skies. It was only near Diwali that Delhi’s air quality would drop and that too for a little. The scenario is different now.

Combination of Factors Behind Delhi Pollution

According to calculations by central government agency SAFAR, on November 2 the proportion contribution of farm stubble fire to Delhi’s PM2.5 concentration had crossed 25 per cent. It was in the 10-20 per cent span in the last week.

Why is Punjab accused of the farm fires and not Haryana?

Stubble Burning in Punjab
Stubble Burning in PunjabImage Credit: AFP

According to the experts, Haryana grows Basmati rice while Punjab is more into non-Basmati Pusa variety paddy.

Basmati crop requires fragile handling so harvesting is primarily done manually. Whereas the non-Basmati paddy is harvested by combine harvesters in Punjab.

Furthermore, the size of farms in Punjab is much more significant as compared to the lands in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

It was after 2000 that combine harvesters were used laboriously, resulting in more farm fires. Down the lane in the year 2010, the change in paddy-sowing law transformed the timing of biomass burning to the month of November, when wind conditions helped trap pollutants.

Delhi Population and Vehicular Emissions

Smoke from stubble burning or farm fires is an external factor. Whereas emission from vehicles is an internal factor and perennial contributor to Delhi’s air pollution. 

As per the records, there are 75 lakh registered vehicles in Delhi, and out of this one-third are cars. Around 20 lakh vehicles outside Delhi also put into the capital's traffic load and vehicular emission.

CSE on November 2 said that the standard levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), articulated by vehicles, have increased by 60 per cent compared to the first week of October last year.

Since the smog from farm fires deteriorates the situation in winter, their general contribution to Delhi’s annual pollution is evaluated at just 3 per cent.

Keeping the COVID year of 2020 aside the smog from farm fires has suffocated Delhi NCR in November since the last decade. 

Until we get through a long-term solution for vehicle emissions, farm fires, construction pollution, and other internal problems, Delhi will not be able to breathe clean in November.

By: Manika Sharma

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