Delhi haze.

Delhi haze.

Delhi air emergency: Severe conditions likely to blow over by weekend

Evolve consensus to counter pollution in Delhi: Punjab CM to Modi

Agency Report | New Delhi | 2 November, 2019 | 11:40 PM

The severe air pollution causing health emergency in Delhi that has grabbed international headlines, may dissipate by Saturday-Sunday as favourable weather conditions are forecast that may cause a slow recovery in its air quality index (AQI).

The toxic haze covering Delhi’s skies is that for three weeks stagnant conditions caused by the delayed withdrawal of the monsoon had caused a deterioration due to accumulation of pollutants.

This impact is ending now, according to Safar India (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), under the Ministry of Earth Sciences and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.

While AQI in Delhi is in the severe plus category, the highest grade of computation at 435, the US Embassy is denoting a sharp improvement in PM 2.5 levels compared to the peak values on Friday of 454.

On Saturday, the PM 2.5 count at 9 a.m. has halved at 208, according to US Embassy data.

According to the forecast by Safar India, the overall air quality of Delhi continues to be in the severe plus. However, as the winds have become westerly from Saturday the further intrusion will be less and slow recovery is expected.

“The AQI is expected to remain in the severe category today morning but likely to be recovering further by evening towards the upper end of very poor,” it said.

A fresh Western Disturbance is likely to advance to eastern regions of northwest India on Saturday, which is likely to positively influence Delhi’s air quality by increasing surface and boundary layer winds speed and thereby flushing out the accumulated pollutants.

“SAFAR extended outlook has warned 3 weeks back about the chance of high deterioration in AQI of Delhi during last week of Oct to the first week of November for prolonged periods mainly due to the delayed withdrawal of monsoon forcing stagnant conditions beneath to arrest any external intrusion for a longer period. This impact appears to be ending now, it said.

The worrisome part is that biomass burning in Punjab and Haryana hit a new peak with a contribution of 44 per cent in air pollution but that is expected to dissipate.

The effective stubble fire counts of Northwest India (Haryana & Punjab) touched a new peak value of this year (3,178) Friday.

The accumulation of pollutants sharply increased and stubble share in Delhi’s PM2.5 touched season’s high of 44 per cent on October 31 as against the expected 25 per cent. The share is predicted to drop down to 18 per cent by Saturday owing to increase in ventilation index dispersing it.

“By November 3 significant improvement to the very poor is expected,” the forecast said.

Expressing deep anguish and anger at the unprecedented situation triggered by the growing air pollution in Delhi, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday wrote an emotional letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, underlining the need for evolving a consensus on tackling the issue, rising above political affiliations and regional considerations.

In his letter, the Chief Minister said: “No Indian, and definitely no person in Punjab is oblivious to the misery of our brethren in the national capital, whatever many around the country might have been led to believe.”

Pointing out that his own children and grandchildren living in Delhi, were currently sharing the plight of the lakhs of people in the national capital as a result of the toxic air enveloping the city, he said the prevailing situation “has exposed the hollowness of our claims of being a progressive and developed nation.”

“How can a country be called developed when its capital city has been reduced to a gas chamber, not by any natural disaster but a series of man-made ones?” he asked.

Making it clear that he had no intention of brushing his hands off Punjab’s responsibility in this tragic state of affairs, the Chief Minister said, however, the entire country, including Delhi itself as well as the government at the Centre, had allowed “this state of affairs to emerge and sustain, with our various acts of commission and omission”.

Admitting that stubble fires, supported by the winds blowing in the wrong direction, were contributing to the toxic levels of air pollution that prevail today in Delhi, the Chief Minister, at the same time, noted that data from several independent agencies had pointed out that large-scale industrial pollution, the traffic overload, the excessive construction activity taking place in Delhi were equally, if not more, to blame.

But Amarinder Singh took no solace from this data. Nor could this blame game help any of them to “assuage our own guilt in a matter of such serious national consequence”, he said.

“The harsh truth is that while all of us are busy conveniently passing the buck to one another, Delhi’s people are reeling under excruciating misery, and are facing one of the worse ever health disasters in the nation’s, possibly the world’s, history,” he wrote.

Observing that “the situation continues to aggravate while we all play ball over the people’s pain and grief,” the Chief Minister said the crux of the problem was that “we have persistently and foolishly refused to rise above political considerations to launch a collective search for a permanent solution”.

“The solutions each one of us, the so-called stakeholders, have been proffering from time to time are but knee-jerk interventions that translate into nothing more than a case of ‘too little, too late’ every time (sic),” he said.

The Chief Minister further wrote that Punjab had tried to enforce the law against stubble burning as much as possible, and was even penalising the farmers, “even though it goes against my conscience to punish a community that has suffered, and continues to suffer, at the hands of an ungrateful nation”.

But that, he added, “does not really deter the farmers from resorting to the burning of the paddy straw to keep their pathetic margins from falling further.”

Delhi and Haryana, too, were doing what they could, in their own ways, he pointed out but added that the role of the Centre had remained dubious in the whole affair, even though the central government was the biggest stakeholder of national prosperity.

Amarinder Singh further wrote that he had expected the government of India “to have taken the matter in its able hands long back, to find a holistic solution to this grave problem”.

That, unfortunately, had not happened till date, despite even the Supreme Court expressing its concern on the rapidly deteriorating situation, he lamented.

The Chief Minister recalled that he had personally suggested to the Prime Minister and other union ministers, on several occasions, a separate bonus amount of Rs 100 per quintal to facilitate stubble management by the farmers.

“Perhaps your government does not feel that is the right solution, which would explain its failure to respond positively to my request,” he added.

But then, asked the Chief Minister, “what is that solution that can end this grave problem once and for all?”

“Is it not your government’s task, Mr Prime Minister, to search for that permanent solution, in consultation with all the other stakeholders, including Punjab, Delhi and Haryana?” he further went on to say.

Stressing the need for the Centre’s urgent intervention, the Chief Minister concluded, in his letter, “After all, what is at stake goes way beyond our petty political ambitions.” (IANS)