So far, crop fires to blame for just 2% of PM2.5 load

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

New Delhi: While NASA im­agery shows a spurt in crop stub­ble burn­ing in the last 24 hours, Delhi is yet to be sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected by it. In fact, farm fires con­trib­uted just 2% to Delhi’s over­all PM2.5 con­cen­tra­tion on Satur­day, any anal­y­sis by Sys­tem of Air Qual­ity and Weather Fore­cast­ing And Re­search (SA­FAR) showed.

But don’t re­joice yet: things are ex­pected to worsen grad­u­ally and the con­tri­bu­tion of crop stub­ble burn­ing to Delhi’s PM2.5 is likely to touch 6% by Tues­day. De­spite lit­tle for­eign in­flux, Delhi’s air qual­ity has been de­te­ri­o­rat­ing over the last three days — an AQI read­ing of 222 (poor) on Satur­day was slightly worse than Fri­day’s 216.

“The over­all air qual­ity of Delhi is in the poor cat­e­gory, as fore­casted. South­west mon­soon has with­drawn from most of north­west In­dia and the in­creased biomass fire ac­tiv­ity in Haryana and Pun­jab may now start to in­flu­ence Delhi’s AQI,” SA­FAR, which is a body of the min­istry of sciences, said in a state­ment.

It said a spike in crop burn­ing in Pun­jab and Haryana over the next few days, cou­pled with the weather con­di­tions, could worsen things a lit­tle. “The sur­face wind speed con­tin­ues to be low and vari­able, and is pre­dom­i­nantly from the west. Un­der these con­di­tions, air qual­ity is pre­dicted to de­te­ri­o­rate to the mid­dle of the poor cat­e­gory by Sun­day. While a fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion is ex­pected by Oc­to­ber 14, AQI is still much bet­ter this time around than in the last few years, partly be­cause of the mois­ture with rel­a­tively warmer tem­per­a­tures around Delhi,” SA­FAR stated.

Delhi's air qual­ity was “sat­is­fac­tory” till Oc­to­ber 2 and “mod­er­ate” till Oc­to­ber 9. It turned poor for the first time in the sea­son on Thurs­day. “Last year, the city's air qual­ity had turned very poor on Oc­to­ber 7,” an official said.

While Delhi’s av­er­age PM10 con­cen­tra­tion on Satur­day was 179 μg/m3, SA­FAR’s three-day fore­cast showed it could touch 215 μg/m3. Sim­i­larly, the av­er­age PM 2.5 con­cen­tra­tion, which was 97μg/ m3 on Satur­day, is ex­pected to touch 116μg/m3 af­ter three days. The safe stan­dard for these ul­tra­fine par­ti­cles is 100 and 60μg/m3, re­spec­tively.

A Met de­part­ment official said low wind speed was not al­low­ing lo­cal emis­sions to dis­perse freely and sim­i­lar con­di­tions were ex­pected over the next few days. “There will not be a sig­nif­i­cant change in the tem­per­a­tures, but wind speeds will con­tinue to re­main low. The west­er­ly­north­west­erly winds are start­ing to bring stub­ble burn­ing into the pic­ture and this will in­crease in the com­ing days,” the official said.

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