North India’s air most polluted in the world
A thick smog of toxic pollutants engulfed the plains of north Indian on Sunday, making the region’s air the most polluted in the world at this time, according to data from the global air quality monitoring website airvisual.com.
While Delhi was on the pollution watch radar, it was a small town in central Haryana, Rohtak, that recorded the highest Air Quality Index (AQI) level of 498, according to the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) 4pm daily bulletin maps the 24-hour average of aggregate pollutants, in the country.
Rohtak’s AQI was four points higher than that of the Delhi, and two points higher than Faridabad’s. Most of the towns that reported “severe” or “severe plus” levels of pollution were in and around the national capital region (NCR), which extends to Alwar in Rajasthan on the west, to UP’s Hapur in the east and Panipat in Haryana in the north.
According to airvisual.com, Delhi’s AQI was highest, with the Mongolian capital of Ulaan Batar in second place. The live monitoring by the website does not include smaller towns and cities on the CPCB tracker. The website also showed that most of the places in the Indo-Gangetic plains recorded highest pollution levels this year from last Sunday, which was when India celebrated Diwali.
An analysis of the air quality in the Indo-Gangetic plains released on Thursday by the University of Chicago said that an average person living in this region was expected to lose seven years of life.
In March 2019, a Greenpeace report said that 22 of the world’s 30 most polluted places were in India, and most of them were in the northern plains. The report was based on analysis of the air pollution levels in 3,400 cities across the world in 2018 by airvisual.com.
On Sunday, several towns in Haryana -- Karnal, Panipat, Rohtak, Bahadurgarh, Bhiwani, Jind, Gurugram, Faridabad and Kaithal -- recorded the highest air pollution levels in the past three years even though stubble burning cases reported this year were lesser than in 2018, according to data from the state government.
According to the Haryana pollution control board, till November 2, 4341 incidents of stubble burning was reported, which was 15% less than the incidents reported in the same period in 2018 in a state where 1.1 million hectares of farm land was under paddy cultivation in both years.
Most towns in Punjab were also reeling under high levels of pollution, but less than NCR and Haryana. The AQI was 295 in Amritsar and 291 in Bathinda 291 -- the two biggest cities in its paddy growing districts. However, the AQI were over 320 higher in the industrial towns of Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Khanna. The highest recorded AQI in Punjab was 415 in Patiala.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday said that 2,923 farmers were booked for stubble burning till November 1, which is about 20% less number of cases as compared to 2018. He also said that incidents of farm fires being reported this year was about halve of those in 2018.
In Uttar Pradesh, Noida was recorded most polluted city with an AQI of 495, followed by Ghaziabad at 491 and Hapur at 471. Lucknow continued to reel under polluted air with an AQI of 400, while Kanpur was at 383 and Varanasi at 332, according to the 4pm bulletin.
UP’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Friday held a meeting, in which he directed district magistrates, especially of districts in western UP, to take stern action against farmers found to be burning stubble. Directions have been issued to sprinkle water on roads and trees, a government official, not willing to be quoted, said.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Sunday urged the Centre to take lead and address the air pollution situation after holding a review meeting with the government officials as polluted levels in Jaipur doubled.
“Rising pollution levels in Delhi and in neighbouring states including Rajasthan is a matter of grave concern. People are suffering since long especially children and old people. It is a health emergency, which only Delhi government cannot solve alone, Central government has to take lead,” Gehlot tweeted.
Both Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh have sought a meeting of chief ministers of all northern states to discuss a strategy to deal with huge spurt in air pollution in the region and ensure its implementation.
(With inputs from HTC in Chandigarh, Lucknow and Jaipur)