Delhi in for foggy, pol­luted week­end as farm fires peak

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Front Page - Joy­deep Thakur joy­ ■

Gov­ern­ment agen­cies warned of a sharp de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in Delhi’s air qual­ity from its al­ready ‘very poor’ lev­els in the com­ing days af­ter farm­ers in Pun­jab and Haryana car­ried out the high­est num­ber of farm fires in a sin­gle day, and a drop in tem­per­a­tures in­creased the chances of morn­ing fog.

Dur­ing fog, mois­ture binds to dust par­ti­cles, mak­ing them heav­ier and harder to dis­perse. Fore­cast­ers also said that the wind pat­tern would change to north­west – the di­rec­tion from which farm fire smoke comes in.

“The con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5 – the ul­tra­fine and more harm­ful of the par­tic­u­lates — is likely to shoot up over the week­end. Its lev­els could breach the se­vere or emer­gency cat­e­gory. Such con­di­tions are likely to linger till Sun­day,” said a sci­en­tist with the na­tional cap­i­tal’s early warn­ing

sys­tem, which can fore­cast lev­els of pol­lu­tion two days in ad­vance.

This comes at a time when the re­gion is reel­ing un­der the ef­fects of pol­lu­tion due to wide­spread, and pos­si­bly il­le­gal, use of fire­crack­ers dur­ing Di­wali. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures re­leased by the Delhi Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day on Di­wali pol­lu­tion, the con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5 reached nearly 20 times the ac­cept­able of 60µg/m³.

On Fri­day, the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board rec­om­mended that bans on con­struc­tion work across the NCR and the en­try of heavy ve­hi­cles into Delhi be ex­tended to Mon­day. Con­struc­tion work was banned since Novem­ber 1 till Satur­day while the curbs on trucks came into force on Thurs­day and was to be in place till Sun­day.

Satel­lites picked up at least 2,100 in­stances of farm fire in Pun­jab and Haryana on Novem­ber 8, the most recorded on a sin­gle day. Farm lead­ers in Pun­jab had pre­vi­ously pre­dicted more burn­ing would take place, es­pe­cially around Di­wali since they could show it as in­ci­den­tal fires.

Of­fi­cials in Pun­jab and Haryana con­firmed there had been a spike in crop residue burn­ing, a prac­tice farm­ers use to quickly and cheaply ready their fields for the next round of sow­ing. Haryana pol­lu­tion con­trol board of­fi­cial S Narayanan said that more than 400 in­stances were recorded in the state, com­pared to about only 100 the day be­fore. His Pun- jab coun­ter­part, Cha­ran­jit Singh, said there were nearly 800 cases in his state but de­nied that that was the rea­son for pol­lu­tion. “Had there been a ma­jor fire in Pun­jab, our AQI would not have shown improve­ment as com­pared to last year, he said. An of­fi­cial from the Sys­tem of Air Qual­ity and Weather Fore­cast­ing and Re­search, a gov­ern­ment-run pol­lu­tion fore­cast­ing agency, agreed with the sci­en­tist quoted above that Delhi’s pol­lu­tion could de­te­ri­o­rate sharply. “While on one hand, the post-Di­wali pol­lu­tion is yet to be dis­persed com­pletely, the cold front [mov­ing in from the north­west] is likely to bring in more pol­lu­tants. The mois­ture, slow mov­ing winds and the dip in tem­per­a­ture will fur­ther trap pol­lu­tants close to the ground,” this of­fi­cial said, ask­ing not to be named.

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