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Delhi breathed easier in 2017, this year is even better

In 2017, Delhi had at least nine days when the air quality had turned severe.

delhi Updated: Aug 29, 2018 10:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Air quality,Delhi,Capital
This year, till August 26, the air quality has improved further, say scientists from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).(Burhaan Kinu/ Hindustan Times)

The national capital had breathed comparatively cleaner air in 2017 than it did in 2016. This year, till August 26, the air quality has improved further, say scientists from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Buoyed by this, Delhi has itself set an ambitious target — of not allowing the air quality to deteriorate to ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ levels this winter.

In 2017, Delhi had at least nine days when the air quality had turned severe. “If we consider the period from January 1 to August 26, then in 2016, there were only 74 days on which air quality can be called ‘clean’. In 2017, Delhi witnessed around 113 such days and in 2018, the number of ‘clean’ days shot up to 118,” V Shukla, who heads CPCB’s air quality laboratory, said.

Even though the air quality index mentions six levels of pollution — good, satisfactory, moderate, poor, very poor and severe — for simplification, the CPCB has broadly categorised the first three levels as ‘clean’ air and last three categories as ‘polluted’.

“Since January this year, Delhi was enjoying comparatively cleaner air than in 2016 and 2017. Only in June did the air quality turn worse than the previous years. That was because of a dust storm in Rajasthan which pushed up pollution levels in Delhi,” he said.

The India Meteorological Department has been asked to alert the CPCB if satellites spot any such event even beyond the international borders. This would help in alerting the agencies to take proactive measures.

On Monday, Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash and Bhure Lal, chairman of Supreme Court appointed panel Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, took stock of the preparations ahead of winter.

“Usually, the air quality dips to ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ levels during winters. But, this time, we have been directed to implement measures mentioned in the Graded Response Action Plan so that pollution levels could be restricted to moderate and poor categories,” an official of the environment department said.

In the winter of 2017, the CPCB had sent out 40 teams to flag violations such as open garbage burning and open construction sites that could lead to air pollution. This year, the teams are being deployed well in advance.

“We have already sent out five teams from Monday. By September 15, another teams would be doing the rounds. This is being done to take stock of situations so that when all 40 teams hit the ground, we have some homework done,” P Gargava, member secretary of CPCB, said. Initially, the teams would visit areas once or twice a week. The number of teams visiting an area and their visit frequency can be increased depending on the air quality.

Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan, in an interview to Hindustan Times, had said, “There was reasonable improvement in air quality in 2017 as compared to 2016, and we will ensure 2018 is better than 2017.”

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 01:35 IST