Air quality in deep red in Delhi’s 12 monitoring stations, 9 of them hot spots
Air quality plunged to the ‘severe’ zone in at least 12 of the 35 pollution monitoring stations of Delhi on Friday. Nine of these are neighbourhoods that have already been marked as ‘hot spots’, where the government has improved monitoring and is focusing on stricter enforcement of rules over the last two years.
On Friday morning, when Delhi’s overall air quality deteriorated to the ‘very poor’ category, these nine ‘hot spots’ -- - Narela, Alipur (Narela-Bawana), Vivek Vihar, Anand Vihar, Jahangirpuri, Rohini, Wazirpur, Bawana and Mundka -- were already in deep red (severe).
In some stations such as Dilshad Garden, Dwarka sector 8 and Nehru Nagar, air pollution did not reach the severe category but was at the extreme end of very poor, recording AQIs 396, 396 and 398, respectively.
In 2018, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had released a list of 13 neighbourhoods identified as Delhi’s pollution hot spots— where the air is noxious at most times of the day with monitoring stations often showing ‘deep red’. However, with specific action plans and intensive patrolling, pollution enforcement agencies had claimed the quality of air in these areas had shown a substantial improvement.
But on Friday, as the city faced its worst air day in the last eight months, the situation at many of these hot spots was alarming. As against the average AQI of 366 recorded in Delhi, the index at these hot spots were above the mark of 400. In Narela, the AQI was 402, in Mundka it was 418, Anand Vihar was 409 and Wazirpur was 441.
Data shows the prominent pollutant in most of these stations was PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter), which means the source was vehicular emissions and open fires.
Bhure Lal, chairperson, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (Epca), said action taken in these areas was being regularly monitored.
“Since the air quality across the city was in the very poor category today (Friday), and the hot spots were in a worse condition, we directed increased patrolling and action in these areas. We had a meeting with the government and the municipal agencies and we will keep a close watch,” Lal said.
Data showed a steep rise in the levels of PM 2.5 (particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) in these neighbourhoods.
At Anand Vihar, the PM 2.5 levels rose from 343ug/m3 at 6am to 523ug/m3 at 9am. As the wind speed picked up during the day, the levels improved slightly, but the graph went up again after 6pm. Experts said the increase could be attributed to vehicular pollution, which is usually high in this part of the city in the day.
Kuldeep Srivastava, head of India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) regional weather forecasting centre, said low wind speed, coupled with an increased stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana, pushed the city to poor air.
At the same time, local pollution sources such as dust, vehicular movement and open garbage burning added to the pollution levels.
“Till 10am, the winds were completely calm and even by noon when the wind picked up, the average speed remained 5-6kmph, which was not enough to facilitate the dispersion of pollutants. The increase in moisture early in the morning trapped pollution particles,” Srivastava.
According to the CPCB list, the 13 hot spots—Rohini, Dwarka, Okhla Phase II, Punjabi Bagh, Anand Vihar, Vivek Vihar, Wazirpur, Jahangirpuri, RK Puram, Bawana, Narela, Mundka and Mayapuri -- are based on the high particulate matter (PM) concentration in these areas on a long term.
The Supreme Court had last year asked Delhi chief secretary Vijay Dev to fix these 13 spots. The court had said it won’t allow “inaction” by the authorities to play with the lives of the people. The court rapped the city government for failing to deal with road dust, construction demolition and garbage-dumping activities.
Enforcement agencies said even before the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (Epca) ordered the implementation of the winter segment of the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) in the city, monitoring has been going on in these 13 hot spots.
“It will be unfair to expect an overnight change in these hot spots. From where we had started, there is a very visible improvement in all of these 13 areas. But we will continue monitoring and patrolling in these hotspots so that the local sources can be controlled,” said a senior Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) official.