Delhi gets clean­est Sept air in 9 yrs, PM2.5 in safe zone

40 in­dus­trial units sealed in Man­doli

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Front Page - Jas­jeev.Gand­hiok @times­group.com

New Delhi: If you found some­thing very un­usual about the clear blue skies and fresh air in the cap­i­tal this Septem­ber, you were right. This was the clean­est Septem­ber the city has seen in at the last nine years for which Delhi Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Com­mit­tee (DPCC) data is avail­able.

TOI an­a­lysed DPCC data from 2011 to 2019 and found that both the av­er­age PM2.5 and PM10 lev­els were within safe stan­dards for the first time dur­ing Septem­ber in all these years. While the av­er­age PM10 level was 99 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­tre (as against a safe stan­dard of 100), av­er­age PM2.5 level was recorded at just 40 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­tre, well be­low the safe limit of 60.

This was a slight im­prove­ment from last Septem­ber, when the av­er­age PM10 con­cen­tra­tion was 121 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­tre and PM2.5 was 44 mi­cro­grams.

“Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions have cer­tainly played a part this Septem­ber but if you look at trends from 2015 on­wards, there has been a grad­ual de­cline each year,” said Mo­han Ge­orge, head of DPCC’s air divi­sion.

“Pol­lu­tion was at its peak in 2015. Since then, not only has co­or­di­na­tion on the ground im­proved but there is bet­ter pre­pared­ness from us and other agen­cies. Vi­o­la­tors are be­ing fined on the spot and there is greater de­ter­rence,” Ge­orge added.

In Septem­ber 2015, the av­er­age PM10 con­cen­tra­tion was 239 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­tre, while the av­er­age PM2.5 level was 72 mi­cro­grams. Com­pared to then, PM10 con­cen­tra­tions have de­clined by 58% and PM2.5 has come down by 44%.

The change in pol­lu­tion lev­els has also been sig­nif­i­cant in terms of the Air Qual­ity In­dex, which was started by Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board in 2015. The av­er­age AQI for Septem­ber has also been com­ing down grad­u­ally since 2015, with the low­est of 98 recorded this year — the first time since data col­lec­tion when av­er­age air qual­ity was “sat­is­fac­tory”.

The av­er­age AQI was 194 in Septem­ber 2015, 162 in 2016, 139 in 2017 and 112 in 2018.

While an AQI read­ing of 50 or be­low is clas­si­fied as “good”, read­ings be­tween 51 and 100 fall in the “sat­is­fac­tory” cat­e­gory and those be­tween 101 and 200 are clas­si­fied as “mod­er­ate”. “Poor” air ranges from 201 to 300, “very poor” from 301 to 400 and “se­vere” from 401 to 500.

Delhi recorded also recorded no “poor” days in Septem­ber this year with the high­est AQI recorded on Septem­ber 4. In fact, 19 days in the month were clas­si­fied Av­er­age* PM10 (μg/m³) con­cen­tra­tion in Septem­ber (2011-2019) ➤ Av­er­age AQI lev­els in Septem­ber have been com­ing down grad­u­ally since 2015 with the low­est av­er­age recorded this year at (162 in Sept 2016, 139 in 2017, 112 in 2018)

as “sat­is­fac­tory” – mean­ing the AQI was be­low 100. The re­main­ing 11 days were in the “mod­er­ate” range.

An­u­mita Roy Chowd­hury, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, re­search and ad­vo­cacy at the Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment (CSE) said while the longterm data anal­y­sis shows a down­ward trend, the monthly av­er­ages are in­flu­enced both by proac­tive ac­tion and me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions.

“The an­nual av­er­ages are com­ing down if you look at the long term data and the num­ber of se­vere days has also re­duced. In Septem­ber, both me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions and kick start­ing ac­tion early has helped. This makes a strong case for en­sur­ing that Oc­to­ber is also bet­ter than the last few years. With the Graded Re­sponse Ac­tion Plan (GRAP) kick­ing in soon, we can cer­tain con­trol the Delhi

Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Com­mit­tee said that it had sealed 40 in­dus­trial units in Man­doli In­dus­trial Area from Septem­ber 27 to Septem­ber 30 for caus­ing air pol­lu­tion and not fol­low­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal norms. The list of units were iden­ti­fied as those which had ei­ther not switched to cleaner fu­els, like PNG, or were clan­des­tinely us­ing other fu­els. DPCC said, as part of the ac­tion plan, such drives will con­tinue in other parts of Delhi.

peaks,” said Chowd­hury.

Di­pankar Saha, for­mer head of CPCB’s air lab said rains, not so much in the cap­i­tal but in the sur­round­ing ar­eas, played a part in con­trol­ling dust pol­lu­tion. “An ex­tended mon­soon has meant dust has been kept un­der con­trol. How­ever, ground level ac­tion has im­proved over the last few years and both these fac­tors are go­ing hand-in-hand to help Delhi,” Saha added.

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