PMO holds meet over Delhi air pollution, AQI ‘poor’ | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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PMO holds meet over Delhi air pollution, AQI ‘poor’

Oct 14, 2023 05:42 AM IST

PK Mishra, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, instructed chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to closely monitor farm fires in their respective states

Top bureaucrats attended a high-level meeting on Friday to review the on-ground action taken to curb pollution in Delhi and nearby regions, with a key focus on ways to minimise stubble-burning in neighbouring states that heavily contributes to the annual toxic air crisis.

The air quality continued to worsen, remaining in the “poor” category on Friday, with an air quality index (AQI) of 256. (Raj K Raj)
The air quality continued to worsen, remaining in the “poor” category on Friday, with an air quality index (AQI) of 256. (Raj K Raj)

PK Mishra, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, who chaired the task force meeting, instructed the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to closely monitor farm fires in their respective states.

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Mishra also called for in-situ management of paddy stubble (leaving crop residue on the field) through crop residue management machines and bio-decomposers. He emphasised on the economic use of paddy straw and developing adequate storage facilities for baled straw, along with infrastructure for baling, briquetting and pelleting for effective ex-situ utilisation of paddy straw.

The meeting was attended by chief secretaries of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, secretaries of different departments including ministries of environment, agriculture, road, petroleum and the Central Pollution Control Board to review steps taken by the task force constituted in 2017.

Meanwhile, the air quality continued to worsen in the “poor” band on Friday, as the air quality index (AQI) rose to 256 from 220 a day ago.

The phenomenon of worsening air this time of the year is nothing new for residents of Delhi. It starts at the end of monsoon every year as a change in meteorological conditions — a dip in temperature and shift in wind direction — starting October and farmers setting fire to crop residue to clear the field for the next crop bring toxic fumes and particulate matter to Delhi-NCR, shooting AQI to levels unfit for breathing.

While the Delhi government has already rolled out its annual Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) to tackle this crisis, the principal secretary called for its strict implementation for effective results. “There should be intensified drives to replace overaged vehicles... and stricter implementation of actions envisaged in the Grap by all concerned,” said a PMO statement.

Officials in the Delhi government did not respond to HT’s queries for a comment on the issue.

On Friday, the share of stubble burning to Delhi’s PM 2.5 concentration was 1%, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (Safar) said. Data showed that at the same time last year, the contribution of stubble burning was 2% on October 13.

The daily contribution remained in single digits till October 28 last year, rising abruptly from 7% that day to 21% the next day. A sharp rise in farm fire numbers is generally seen in the last week of October and the first week of November, when harvesting is at its peak.

Gufran Beig, founder project director at Safar and chair professor, NIAS, said local factors such as low wind speed was aiding the accumulation of pollutants. “The contribution of stubble burning is not very significant. Major factors influencing the air pollution level currently are temperature and calm wind conditions,” said Beig.

Satellite data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute showed Punjab, Haryana and UP recorded a combined 202 farm fires on Friday. Forecasts showed the air quality is likely to remain “poor” on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 36.2°C on Friday, three degrees above normal, while the minimum was 19.8°C.

Bio-decomposer sprayed in north Delhi

The Delhi government on Friday started spraying bio-decomposer solution in its farm fields as environment minister Gopal Rai launched the initiative from north Delhi’s Tigipur. Rai said that the government plans to spray the bio-decomposer over 5,000 acres of agricultural land this year and 13 teams would undertake the exercise on Basmati as well as non-Basmati agricultural fields for free.

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