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Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Delhi-NCR gets early warning system to forecast air pollution

The system uses models from the US’ National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) to calculate the level of air pollution in Delhi and NCR.

delhi Updated: Oct 16, 2018 08:19 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The government on Monday launched an early warning system that can predict the quality of air in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) three days in advance and help tune its anti-pollution control policies to prevent a spike during winters.
The government on Monday launched an early warning system that can predict the quality of air in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) three days in advance and help tune its anti-pollution control policies to prevent a spike during winters.(HT File Photo)
         

Delhi is again bracing for the air quality to plummet ahead of winter — a recurring phenomenon over the last few years. But thanks to an “early warning system” that will be able to forecast air pollution episodes three days in advance, the government may be slightly better prepared to tune its policies.

The air quality early warning system, developed by the Union ministry of earth sciences (MoES), will be able to predict the impact of say a dust storm emerging in the Gulf on the Capital’s air quality, officials said.

On Monday, IMD scientists shared their first forecast for October 16, 17 and 18 from the warning system with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Scientists working on the model said the air quality on October 17 will continue to be in “poor” category, the wind direction may change from northwesterly to easterly and a light rain is expected in Delhi-NCR on October 18 which may marginally improve air quality.

The rain will be a result of a western disturbance across north-western India. “We are not seeing any major transport of dust from outside Delhi in the next three days, but the PM2.5 concentration is rising and that could be linked to crop stubble burning,” an India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist working on the system said.

The system can forecast PM2.5 (fine, respirable particles), PM10 (coarse pollution particles), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). It can also provide data on fires based on satellite imagery, dust levels and other factors.

But for now, this early warning system would not be accessible for the general public.

Officials said all forecast under the system will be password protected and shared with the CPCB, which will disseminate warning and tailor their pollution control measures like the application of Graded Response Action Plan (Grap).

The system uses an American (National Centre for Atmospheric Research) and a Finnish model to calculate air pollution levels in Delhi and NCR. “We have not spent money on these models. They are being shared by these countries through the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The full-fledged warning system will be up in a couple of days. We are still making some last-minute improvements,” said M Rajeevan, secretary, earth sciences.

CPCB officials said they have requested IMD to see if the forecast can be put out on CPCB’s website for general public to view.

Govt says air quality is ‘improving’

Meanwhile, Union science and technology minster Harsh Vardhan on Monday said the number of “good”, “satisfactory” and “moderate” days were up this year compared to the same periods in 2017 and 2016. There was also a drop in “poor”, “very poor” and “severe” days.

Officials suggested that crop stubble burning cases are less this year compared to 2016 and 2017. The crop fires are 75% lower than last year in Punjab and 40% lower in Haryana, Vardhan added.

Officials, however, said they are expecting fires to pick up next week and last for 10 to 15 more days thereafter.

This is because of late harvest of certain varieties of paddy this year due to untimely rains in September.