Air quality in Punjab back to ‘poor’ after lockdown eased
Stubble burning, opening of industries main reasons behind AQI index shooting up to unhealthy levels
PATIALA: Air quality levels which had improved considerably over the last two months of lockdown and curfew to prevent the spread of Covid 19 have deteriorated after easing of restrictions by May 17 in Punjab. Stubble burning post wheat harvesting season is also adding to the problem.
The air quality index (AQI) to monitor air pollution indicated unhealthy levels of 200 towards the end of May after recording a low of 36 in Punjab during the lockdown.
On May 22, the industrial town Mandi Gobindgarh recorded an AQI of 242, which was in the very unhealthy bracket according to data from the National AQI of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCC). On May 23, the industrial hub of Ludhiana recorded AQI levels of 170. A month earlier, on March 23, it was 36.
After harvesting season, increasing cases of stubble burning have added to the problem with 12,575 such cases recorded as against 10,357 cases last year.
Pollution levels were increasing for a number of reasons, said Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) chairman Satwinder Singh Marwaha. “The resumption of industrial operations and vehicular pollution after relaxations in the lockdown coupled with farm fire incidences have gradually led to deterioration of air quality in Punjab.”
Increasing dust particles in the air due to use of machines during wheat harvesting also added to poor air quality, he said.
The AQI level from day one of lockdown on March 22 to April 14 before harvesting was recorded at less than 50 in major parts, including industrial towns.
“With the start of the harvesting season after April 15, AQI levels started escalating to over 70 in the ‘satisfactory’ bracket. Now, it has reached ‘moderate’ levels at 150 and even crossed 200 in the past few days,” Marwaha added.
PPCB member secretary Krunesh Garg said 12,575 cases of stubble burning had been reported up to May 23.
“The board has taken serious note of these fire incidents and imposed environmental compensation of around Rs 40 lakh,” he said.
Till date, the PPCB has registered FIRs against 322 farmers under section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of IPC.
Contending, however, that the farmers could not be held responsible for pollution all data pointed to air quality deteriorating after increase in vehicular pollution and industrial activities, Jagmohan Singh, state general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), said, “Only scattered incidents of farm fire were reported as farmers listened to appeals of farmer unions not to burn stubble,” he said.
With the start of the harvesting after April 15, AQI levels started escalating to over 70 in the ‘satisfactory’ bracket. Now, it has reached ‘moderate’ levels and even crossed 200 in few days. SATWINDER SINGH MARWAHA, PPCB chairman
On Saturday, the industrial hub of Ludhiana recorded AQI levels of 170 against 36 a month earlier.