Farm fires contributing 22% to Delhi’s PM 2.5 load, shows data
Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) remained in the “poor” category, with the contribution of stubble fumes to the city’s PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) load doubling to 22% on Saturday from 11% a day earlier, according to Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi under ministry of earth sciences.
Delhi’s AQI on Saturday was recorded at 287 in the poor category, according to CPCB’s 4pm bulletin, with PM10 being the prime pollutant.
Though wind speed was around 12 kmph during the day, pollution levels continued to remain poor because of stubble fumes from neighbouring states and high local pollution, scientists said. The ventilation index — function of the mixing height and the wind speed and defines the ability of the atmosphere to disperse contaminants — on Saturday was 10,000 m2/s. A ventilation index below 2350 sq metres/second is considered poor. The mixing height is the height at which the pollutant mixes in the air.
“A ventilation index of 10,000 m2/s was recorded during the day time. But at night, the wind is calm and the temperature is low. The ventilation index also falls. Air pollution levels didn’t deteriorate further only because there was wind in the daytime. The wind direction is north-westerly and will continue to remain so for the next couple of days. Stubble fires will impact Delhi’s air,” said Vijay Soni, scientist at IMD (air quality management division).
Data on Saturday also showed that action against stubble fires has not been as widespread this year, as compared to previous years. Far fewer subsidised straw management machines have reached farmers in Punjab and Haryana this year compared to the past two years, according to data with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). In 2018-19 and 2019-20, around 51,000 machines were distributed. But in 2020-21, for this season, only 9,000 machines have been distributed in Punjab. “Less than half of the machines that were to be made available have actually reached the farmers. I cannot tell you why this has happened but the money has already been given to states for distribution of machinery,” said Trilochan Mohapatra, director general, ICAR.
Anirudh Tiwari, additional chief secretary (development), Punjab said around 23,500 machines have been sanctioned for this year. But Punjab government received 77,000 applications for machines. They then organised a draw of lots to distribute the machines. But even for individuals who got selected to buy these machines and avail a 50% subsidy, they need to pay the entire amount upfront before subsidy is transferred to them. To pay the amount upfront, they need money which often comes only when harvest begins. “For example, about 50 lakh tonnes paddy has been harvested and those farmers would have got the money to buy the machinery if needed. We expect 170 lakh tonnes of paddy to be procured during the season. So, in areas where there was early harvest like Amritsar, Tarn Taran etc people have bought, machines have been delivered and they are also being physically verified so that subsidy can be paid. It was 9000 machines till last week, now the total number of machines delivered may have increased to over 10,000,” he said.
“Farm fires will increase in areas where farm agitation is high and protests (against the new farm bills) are going on like Barnala, Sangrur, Bhatinda . No official or authorities will go there to check stubble burning, so farm fires will continue. Apart from this, less machines have been distributed to farmers this year . Not even 30% of harvesting is complete. So farm fires will peak next week in Punjab,” said Harinder Singh Lakhowal, Bharatiya Kisan Union general secretary, Punjab.
“There was hardly any wind till 7.30 am today. Now, winds are blowing in the north-westerly direction at a speed of only 5kmph. Minimum temperature has also fallen to 16.8 degree Celsius compared to normal of 19.4 degree Celsius. When wind direction is north-westerly, the impact of stubble burning in the northern states will be felt,” said Kuldeep Shrivastava, head, regional weather forecasting centre.
Since the winter segment of Grap was put in place from October 15, enforcement agencies have been keeping a close eye on polluting sources to prevent the deterioration of air quality in the coming months. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) on Saturday shut down seven polluting industries in Wazirpur industrial area. Apart from this, regular inspections are also being carried out to check open burning and dust.
All municipalities have been ordered to ensure that water sprinkling is carried out along roadsides to settle dust. An action-taken report will be submitted by these agencies to the DPCC every fortnight.