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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Delhi takes a breath, but bad air chokes UP, Bihar

The pollution in Delhi-NCR had reached levels that are regarded a public health emergency. While the problem did not appear to be that acute in other cities where the pollution had spread to, the air was hazardous for people in vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2019 14:58 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Patna/Lucknow
The air quality index (AQI), according to CPCB’s 4pm bulletin, was 453 for Kanpur, 416 for Lucknow and 414 for Patna.
The air quality index (AQI), according to CPCB’s 4pm bulletin, was 453 for Kanpur, 416 for Lucknow and 414 for Patna.(Sushil Kumar/HT PHOTO)
         

Air pollution in Kanpur, Lucknow and Patna was at “severe” levels, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data showed on Tuesday, suggesting the plume of smoke from farm fires in Punjab and Haryana that choked Delhi and the national capital region (NCR) on Sunday has moved down the Gangetic plain.

The air quality index (AQI), according to CPCB’s 4pm bulletin, was 453 for Kanpur, 416 for Lucknow and 414 for Patna – similar to the levels seen in Delhi-NCR on Sunday. Beginning Monday, strong winds hit the NCR region, bringing the AQI into “very poor” category, or the 301-400 range.

“Not just Delhi, most of India is hit by air pollution crisis. Dispersion models show the plume is travelling eastwards and impacting air quality,” said Raj Bhagat Palanichamy, a remote sensing analyst at World Resources Institute.

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According to a CPCB scientist, “the strong north-westerly winds are taking pollutants collected over the northern plains towards eastern India and Bay of Bengal. It is a reason for spurt in pollution levels in several towns in the region. We expect the situation to improve in the next few days.”

The pollution in Delhi-NCR had reached levels that are regarded a public health emergency. While the problem did not appear to be that acute in other cities where the pollution had spread to, the air was hazardous for people in vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

Projections on the EarthWindMap (earth.nullschool.net) showed the pollutants reaching as far south as Visakhapatnam, where the AQI was in the poor category – between 201 and 300 – since Sunday. On Saturday, the AQI was far lower, at 125 – a category considered moderate.

Pollution monitoring officials said further risk of air quality worsening could not be ruled out since farm fires were continuing in Punjab and Haryana. According to satellite imagery analysis by Punjab Agriculture University, there were 6,668 fires on Tuesday – possibly a new single-day record.

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a complete prohibition on crop stubble burning and said the capital’s residents were “losing precious years” of their lives, adding “people are dying, this just cannot happen in a civilised country.” On Tuesday, the SC registered a fresh case on its own and said it will take up the matter on Wednesday. A special bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta will hear the suo motu case entitled, “Alarming rise in air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas”, for hearing along with the pending matters on pollution.

The principal secretary to the Prime Minister, PK Mishra held a high-level meeting with senior officials in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi through video conferencing on Sunday where it was decided that strict action will be taken. “PM Narendra Modi chaired a meeting in which the situation arising due to pollution in various parts of northern India was discussed,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted later