Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai(PTI photo)
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai(PTI photo)

Neighbouring states living in denial over effecs of farm fires on Delhi pollution: Gopal Rai

A day after the contribution of stubble fires to the pollution load in Delhi’s air touched the season’s highest on Sunday at 40%, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai accused the governments in the neighbouring states of living in denial while urging the Centre to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON NOV 03, 2020 08:15 AM IST

A day after the contribution of stubble fires to the pollution load in Delhi’s air touched the season’s highest on Sunday at 40%, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai accused the governments in the neighbouring states of living in denial while urging the Centre to find a lasting solution to the problem.

“We have been repeatedly saying that stubble burning is a major reason behind severe levels of pollution in Delhi around Diwali, but BJP and the Congress say the share of farm fires in Delhi’s pollution was just 4 to 6%, whereas statistics show it has increased to 40%,” Rai said.

He said the Delhi government has been doing everything possible to curb biomass burning, and vehicular and dust pollution, “but what should we do about stubble burning?”

Last year, the stubble contribution to Delhi’s pollution peaked to 44% on November 1.

Rai urged the Centre to take immediate steps to deal with the alarming situation. “I request the Central government to take some action rather than just making a commission, because pollution combined with the current pandemic can cause catastrophic consequences for the people of Delhi,” he said.

According to Punjab Pollution Control Board, the state has recorded 33,165 farm fire incidents this season so far, while Haryana has reported 6,034 farm fires during the period.

Air quality in the national Capital slightly improved on Monday, mostly because of better wind speed, to settle in the ‘poor’ zone of the ambient air quality index after remaining in the ‘very poor’ category for four consecutive days. The average AQI of Delhi was recorded at 293 on Monday compared to 364.

Thermal imaging by NASA’s satellite showed a large, dense cluster of fire dots covering Punjab and parts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

According to the ministry of earth sciences air quality monitor, Safar, “Improved wind conditions, along with weak night time surface inversion have led to better ventilation during the night as well which was so far limited to the day. A marginal deterioration is forecast for November 3 and 4 towards the middle of the very poor category.”

The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) early warning system for Delhi said the predominant surface wind is likely to be blowing from the northwest direction of Delhi with wind speeds going up to 10-18 km per hour. For Tuesday, the wind speeds may be around 5-12 kmph with mainly clear sky and mist in the morning, it said. Air blowing from northwest brings in pollution from the stubble fires in the neighbouring agrarian states.

The city recorded a minimum temperature of 10.8 degrees Celsius, the lowest in the season so far.Calm winds and low temperatures trap pollutants close to the ground, while favourable wind speed helps in their dispersion.

According to the IMD, the city’s ventilation index – a product of mixing depth and average wind speed – was around 12,000 meter square per second on Monday – was favourable for dispersion of pollutants on Monday.

Mixing depth is the vertical height in which pollutants are suspended in the air. It reduces on cold days with calm wind speed. A ventilation index lower than 6,000 sqm/second, with the average wind speed less than 10 kmph, is unfavourable for dispersal of pollutants.

NGT on crackers

The National Green Tribunal on Monday issued notices to the Union environment ministry and the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan seeking their responses on whether use of fire crackers be banned from November 7-30 in the interest of public health and environment.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson justice AK Goel sought response from MoEF, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Delhi Police commissioner, besides the four governments.

The NGT also appointed senior advocate Raj Panjwani and advocate Shibhani Ghosh to assist it as amicus curiae in the matter.

The tribunal was hearing a plea by Indian Social Responsibility Network, filed through Santosh Gupta, seeking action against pollution due to burning of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR. “Use of green crackers will not remedy the situation. The smoke will choke and may create gas chamber like situation. It will lead to poor visibility, hazy conditions and asphyxia,” the plea said.

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