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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Wind helps marathon runners breathe easy

Delhi Half Marathon runners however had to still battle “poor” air on Sunday with PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particle) concentrations hovering around 123 to 136 micrograms per cubic metres compared to a 24 hour standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metres.

delhi Updated: Oct 21, 2019 05:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A participant seen wearing a pollution mask for protection against air pollution during the Delhi Half Marathon, near India Gate, in New Delhi, on Sunday. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times)
A participant seen wearing a pollution mask for protection against air pollution during the Delhi Half Marathon, near India Gate, in New Delhi, on Sunday. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times)
         

Thanks to a western disturbance (WD) that had an impact on the entire northwestern region on Friday night, Delhi’s air quality improved over the weekend to “moderate” and “poor” category compared to “very poor” air quality recorded last week. A light breeze during the next couple of days is likely to prevent deterioration of air quality, meteorologists said.

Delhi Regional Meteorological Centre’s forecasts also show that meteorological conditions are likely to be favourable for dispersal of pollutants in the run up to Diwali on October 27.

Delhi Half Marathon runners however had to still battle “poor” air on Sunday with PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particle) concentrations hovering around 123 to 136 micrograms per cubic metres compared to a 24 hour standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metres, between 6 am and 8 am around Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s air quality index monitoring also showed AQI to be between 226 to 240 in “poor” category around the stadium and 240 to 260 at Lodhi Road during the morning hours. The average AQI on Sunday was 238 “poor” category.

Last year also air quality was in “poor” category at 272 during the marathon on October 22. In 2017, the marathon took place on November 19 with several smoggy days and severe air quality preceding the marathon and AQI of 292 on marathon day.

According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB’s) AQI, poor air quality can cause breathing discomfort to most people on prolonged exposure.

Ethiopia’s team coach Tessema said local weather conditions or poor quality of air didn’t have any serious impact on the performance of his athletes. “We did pretty well improving the course record in the women’s section,” he said. “Due to poor air quality at this time of the year, it might not be good to train for distance running but we came for a day and ran. It is okay for us,” he added.

Race director Hugh Jones said if the runners are clocking good times it meant things are better. “The air quality gets worse in November (post Diwali). That’s why the race was shifted to October,” he added.

Experts however said that exercising during “poor” air hours can increase exposure to pollutants. “Such events need more sensitive scheduling and we should avoid organising them when the air quality is poor in Delhi. Heavy exercise and running will increase breathing rate and therefore personal exposure will also increase,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Meteorologists said athletes could escape “very poor” or “severe” air because wind speed on Sunday was about 15 kmph, and visibility was 4000 metres. “We are expecting winds to be good for the next couple of days which may help with dispersal even though winds are northwesterly (blowing via Punjab and Haryana where crop stubble burning is underway). Another western disturbance is likely to impact the hills on October 22. The effect of the WD on the plains will be seen around October 24 and 25 when winds may pick up again. We are hoping that meteorological conditions will be favourable for pollution dispersion before Diwali,” said Kuldeep Shrivastava, director, Regional Weather Forecasting Centre, New Delhi.

IMD describes WD to be a cyclonic circulation or a trough in the mid and lower tropospheric levels or a low pressure area on the surface, which occur in middle latitude westerlies and originate over the Mediterranean Sea, Caspian Sea and Black Sea and move eastwards across North India.

WDs usually affect north India between October and February when they are moving in lower latitude and bring winter rains and snowfall to the hills.

Following a CPCB task force meeting on Friday, the pollution watchdog recommended three pre-emptive measures to avoid exposure to polluted air in the coming days. It recommended that private and government allow their employees to work from home, to encourage them to car pool or use public transport and advised schools to provide transport to students to avoid crowding of private vehicles outside schools. “This is only an advisory now. The SC mandated environment pollution control authority (EPCA) will take a call on what needs to be enforced,” said a senior CPCB official. Measures under graded response action plan (GRAP) for “very poor” air quality is being enforced in Delhi and NCR presently which includes a ban on use diesel gen sets, enhancing parking fee by three to four times, increasing public transport facilities, prohibition on waste burning etc.

Meanwhile, a large number of crop fires were visible in Punjab and Haryana on satellite images for Saturday. Hiren Jethva, Research Scientist with, Universities Space Research Association at, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center tweeted that the greenness of crop fields indicate a busy harvest season in coming weeks and they will be crucial in determining whether Centre’s in-situ crop stubble management scheme which has subsidised machinery for farmers has been successful.