Delhi's pollution worsens, PM2.5 ten times the safe level
With the onset of winters, Delhi's battle with poisonous air has also started and Wednesday's hazardous condition proves the same. As per reports, the PM2.5 concentration reached ten times more than what is prescribed as safe. The Air Quality Index (AQI) also went from "poor" to "very poor" within a few hours and was recorded at 343 by 4 pm. Here are more details.
Data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) revealed how PM2.5 figures swelled throughout the day. At 6 am, it was found to be 161 micrograms per cubic meter (mpcm), reached 235 mpcm at 10 pm, and went to 485 mpcm by 2 pm. At 3 pm, Mundka's number was nearly 560 mpcm. To give a perspective, PM2.5 at 60 mpcm is considered safe.
Experts said that low wind speed, falling temperatures, and low mixing height, contributed to this condition in Delhi. They didn't blame stubble burning in neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana for yesterday's menace. IMD Scientist Kuldeep Srivastava said calm winds, having a speed of less than 5 km/hr, on Tuesday night and Wednesday made it difficult for pollutants to disperse.
"Besides this, the minimum temperature has been hovering around 10 degrees Celsius for the past two days. A low temperature slows down the dispersion of pollutants," he told TOI. Naturally, the visibility dropped as well — it was recorded at 600 meter in Safdarjung.
Government agency SAFAR said farm fires contributed merely 5% to Delhi's poor air quality yesterday, despite 1,949 lighting incidents being reported a day earlier. This was due to a change in wind direction. The mixing height, or low boundary layer, also ensured that pollutants remained closer to the surface. However, today, the contribution of stubble burning is expected to rise.
Anumita Roy Chowdhury, the executive director at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), asserted that local pollutants must be controlled since they get trapped in adverse weather conditions. "Stubble burning is a variable, it comes and goes. However, continuous pollution happening inside the city makes Delhi hugely vulnerable when the weather turns adverse," Chowdhury explained, adding that local action needs to be strengthened.
Today, Delhi's air quality stood true to IMD's prediction, as residents woke up to a thick blanket of smog. The AQI slipped to 452 this morning; any number between 401 and 500 is seen as severe and can have damning health effects. Vijay Soni, a scientist at IMD's air quality division, said the air was subsiding over northern plains, making dispersal of pollutants impossible.
Currently, Delhi is facing two gigantic problems at once, air pollution and coronavirus. Yesterday, the capital recorded 6,842 new cases in a 24-hour period, trumping its Tuesday's tally of 6,725 fresh cases. Delhi now has 3,59,488 total cases and has lost 6,312 to the disease. On the worrying numbers, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the spike can be called a "third wave."
To recall, for days, Kejriwal's ministers fell short of calling the current spike as the third wave. Delhi's first wave arrived in June, and the second in September. Today, Kejriwal said the rise in cases was due to air pollution. "The COVID-19 situation is deteriorating in Delhi due to rising air pollution," he said, urging citizens to not burst firecrackers this Diwali.