Delhi-NCR air marks 52 days of deadly quality

It’s a problem that refuses to go away. Even as a few areas in Delhi-NCR fell out of the “severe-plus or emergency” category to “severe”, the ambient air quality of the national capital remained “very poor” on Tuesday — the 52nd day since the region has been bereft of clean air.

According to the monitoring agencies and latest forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the air quality is expected to remain “very poor” for at least till Sunday December 3. “The wind speed is expected to slow down, the pollution situation is expected to hover around very poor till December 3. The values may oscillate between poor or very poor,” Polash Mukherjee, Research Associate at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and member EPCA, told IANS. On Tuesday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was “severe-plus” at Anand Vihar, while it recorded “severe” in parts of Ghaziabad, Noida and Delhi Technical University (DTU) in north Delhi. In Delhi, with an AQI of “very poor”, average concentration of the major pollutant PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, was 187 units, while in Delhi-NCR it was 195 units — about seven times higher than the safe limits as per international standards. At R.K Puram in south west Delhi, PM2.5 at peak was 279 units at 6 p.m. According to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), PM2.5 concentration was above 300 units at Dhirpur, Pitampura and Delhi University in north Delhi, Mathura Road and Ayanagar in south Delhi, IGI Airport, Noida and Gurugram.
It’s not just Delhi, or just in winter    A study has pointed out that air pollution is neither Delhi-specific or limited to winter alone. At least four other cities have suffered more compared to Delhi in terms of the number of days and severity of air pollution. The annual concentration of major pollutant PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres, was more in Gurugram, Kanpur, Lucknow and Faridabad, the study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC-India) said. It said Patna and Agra had annual concentration of pollutants similar to Delhi.h Te study analysed records from 18 monitoring stations of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) from November 2016 to October 2017. This includes the monitoring station in R.K. Puram area of south-west Delhi, which is among the most polluted areas with an average PM2.5 concentration of 256 units, compared with an average 191 units in Delhi on Tuesday. The study found that between the said period, Delhi suffered 146 days of bad air quality — “very poor” PM2.5 levels on 120 days and “severe plus” on 26 days. Gurugram was worse off with 190 days of bad air quality, including 133 days under “very poor” and 57 days under “severe plus” category.   In terms of “severe plus” days, nine out of the top 10 most polluted cities were ahead of Delhi. Gaya in Bihar suffered pollution for 42 days, Muzaffarpur for 34 days, Patna for 37 days and Agra for 37 days in this category. The study shows that the annual PM2.5 concentration in Delhi was around 130 units, Faridabad (170), Kanpur (166), Gurugram (163) and Lucknow (143). Patna (128 units) and Agra (120) were close to the Delhi figure. The safe limits for PM2.5 is 25 microgrammes per cubic metre as per international standards and 60 units as per international standards. “Lucknow, Gurugram, Kanpur, Faridabad, Patna and Agra had annual PM 2.5 concentration three times higher than the national air quality standard,” the study pointed out. “It is a problem faced throughout the year and not just during the winter times. The days we included were from all seasons and not just winter months… It also shows that there is an immediate need for long-term and systematic policy measures at the city, regional, and national levels to improve air quality,” Dr Santosh Harish, senior researcher, EPIC-India, said.
Meanwhile, as the stubble burning continues unabated in neighbouring states and the capital itself, as shown by satellite images, the National Capital Region saw the 52nd day of persistent toxins. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) records, Delhi-NCR last saw “moderate” Air Quality Index (AQI) on October 7, 2017, and had been reeling under “poor” to “severe” category. The records further showed that since October 17, Delhi has been consistently breathing “very poor” air, while for seven days from November 7 to 13 it was either “severe” or “severe-plus”. Reeling under “very poor”, “severe” or “emergency” AQI since October 17, Delhi however got a breather due to light rain for one day only on November 19, when the AQI was rated “poor”, after which the air quality kept worsening to the date.

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Hell returns: Delhi-NCR air at dangerous levels again

With at least six areas witnessing “severe-plus or emergency” and “severe” category of air quality on Monday, the national capital is set to inhale more toxins in next three days due to unfavourable changes in weather conditions and the stubble burning that continues unabated in Delhi-NCR itself.

According to the data from Central Pollution Control Board, the Air Quality Index (AQI) across Delhi-National Capital Region continued to be “very-poor” with higher concentration of pollutant even during the day time. The major pollutant PM2.5, or particles in air with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, had an average value of 216 units across Delhi-NCR, while it was 219 in Delhi alone at 2 p.m. Anand Vihar in east Delhi, Delhi Technical University in North Delhi and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh have “severe-plus or emergency” air quality. While, Punjabi Bagh in west Delhi and R.K. Puram in south Delhi and Sector 25 in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida has “severe” air quality at 2 p.m. According to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), with no scope of improvement, Delhi-NCR’s air quality is set to deteriorate over the next three days. With PM2.5 value ranging between 315 to 376 units at 2 p.m. at all ten monitoring stations of SAFAR across Delhi-NCR, the monitoring agency advises “no outdoor physical activity and less indoor activities” for the sensitive groups, and advises mask to everyone else. The regions with respective PM2.5 values include Dhirpur (319), Pitampura (353) and Delhi University (358) in North Delhi; Pusa (319) and Lodhi Road (315) in central Delhi; and Mathura Road (376) and Ayanagar (347) in south Delhi.

AAP govt issues health advisory

As Delhi residents continued to battle pollution, the AAP government on Monday issued a health advisory and urged people not to smoke and go in for carpooling, among other things, to tide over the environmental crisis. It advised people to avoid going outdoors during the early morning and late evening hours as pollution levels were the maximum at those times. “Avoid going to high-pollution areas during peak hours. Stay indoors as much as possible. Schools may avoid outdoor assemblies, sports activities, and other physical activities in early mornings,” the advisory added.
Meanwhile, at IGI Airport PM2.5 was 354, at Gurgram in Haryana it was 350 and Noida it was 323 units — all at least 12 to 13 times higher than the permissible limits. The safe range for PM2.5 as per International Standards is 25 microgrammes per cubic meters and 60 units as per national standards.
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Pollution: how can everyone join hands to curb the menace

 
“Stop outdoor activity at early morning and after sunset times. Go for a short walk instead of a jog and take more breaks,” said a SAFAR’s medical advisory meant for everyone. “Stop any activity level if you experience any unusual coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, breathing difficulty, or fatigue. Avoid burning of wood, candles or incense. Masks known as N-95 or P-100 respirators may only help if you go out.” The satellite images from NASA continue showing incidents of stubble burning in southern Delhi over the past week, as well as across Punjab and Haryana. According to the weather analysts, while Delhi’s wind directions changed now from north-westerly (coming from Punjab) into westerly, the air pollution will still increase over the next two days due to increase in moisture. “By (November) 29, the winds will change again into high moisture South-westerly winds, which will form mist or haze in the region. With high humidity, air’s capacity to hold pollutant increases,” Mahesh Palwat, director private weather forecasting agency Skymet told IANS. (IANS) // ]]>

Weather eases Capital's crisis, but air still poor

Smog has lifted almost as quickly as it descended on northwest India. Wider meteorological factors, possibly extending beyond India, are at play. Scientific studies needed. Panicky, Delhi-centric responses, such as school closures, only brought bad publicity for the capital city.

— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) November 19, 2017 Satellite images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Sunday showed increased stubble-burning in Punjab’s Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Firozpur, Fazilka, Muktsar, Bathinda, Moga and Kapurthala districts in the past two days. “Farmers in these districts are burning stubble now since crop residue could not be burnt earlier on due to moisture, and due to the fact that it’s almost time to prepare the fields for the winter crops,” Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Punjab unit member Omkar Singh said. With Delhi set to receive north-westerly winds (coming from Punjab and Haryana) over the next few days, the air quality in the national capital may see a slight deterioration. According to the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), however, good wind speed will help air quality from deteriorating any further. “As per an advisory from the weather officials and SAFAR, winds will catch speed and thus pollutants will not have much effect. The pollution levels are supposed to drop from very-poor to poor,” Polash Mukherjee, a researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment, and member of the EPCA, said. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, average Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi-NCR at 5 p.m. on Sunday was 292 compared with 298 on Saturday, both considered “poor”. The major pollutant, PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, was recorded above 290 units—about 11 times the safe limit. However, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), seven out of 10 monitoring stations across Delhi-NCR saw PM2.5 value above the danger level of over 300 units. SAFAR rated Delhi-NCR’s air-quality as “very poor”, with areas like Dhirpur, Pitampura and Delhi University in north Delhi, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Mathura Road, and Ayanagar in south Delhi, and Gurugram placed in the “very poor” category based on their respective air quality and PM2.5 levels. While the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted “no rains” over the next few says, weather analysts said they were expecting that the good wind speed alone will dissipate the additional pollutants entering the national capital and surrounding areas from Punjab. “Today the wind speed was around 20 kmph, which is considered good. The north-westerly winds will continue for the next three days —speed is expected to vary between 10 and 15 kmph, which will help in dispersing the pollutants here,” Mahesh Palawat, Director of private weather forecasting agency Skymet, said.
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Delhi air 'very poor' but diesel trucks are back

16 year olds Maanyaa, Ananya & Sarthak want cleaner air to be able to play outdoors. #AirPollution #CleanAir pic.twitter.com/eHmAMSSsZi

— United Nations India (@UNinIndia) November 15, 2017 The major pollutant PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres, recorded 362 units putting it in “very poor” category while PM10 concentration was found at 281 units – considered “poor”. The Supreme Court-monitored Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) ban on entry of trucks and on construction activities in Delhi was imposed on November 7 as mandated by the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) when air quality falls to “severe-plus” or “emergency” standards. Under the “severe-plus” category, according to rules, truck movement in Delhi was stopped, construction work was banned, odd-even scheme for vehicles was imposed and schools were shut. The very-poor GRAP comes in force when PM2.5 levels are between 121-250 units or PM10 levels are between 351-430 units. Under “very poor”, diesel generator sets are also banned and the car parking fee is enhanced by three-four times to discourage private cars on roads. The smog isn’t going away, not till surface winds strengthen and it rains. System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), a weather forecasting body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has predicted levels of PM2.5 and PM10 in Delhi to remain in “very poor” and “poor” categories, respectively, on Friday. It may already be getting worse after the pitiful respite of the last two days. EPCA member and Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) researcher Usman Nasim said pollution levels in the region may go up in coming days due to climatic conditions. “Pollution may increase in next few days due to withdrawal of north-west winds. As wind speed goes down, pollution levels to go up. As per SAFAR, AQI will remain in very poor quality,” Nasim said. He said the major contributing factor would be local vehicular emissions now and increase in moisture would aggravate it. He said stubble burning in states of Punjab, Haryana had almost came to an end. Nasim warned that certain actions from EPCA may come again, in case AQI enters the severe category. “As far as construction is concerned, it will not be allowed since the NGT ban is there,” Nasim said. Mahesh Palwat, Director of Skymet, a private weather forecast agency, said air quality may show little improvement in the afternoon but it will remain in very poor category, mostly during morning and night hours. “At present, it is snowing in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. As its effect, winds from north-west and north will start and air pollution will decrease in Delhi from November 20,” Palawat said.

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Smog & Mirrors: Delhi revives number game

What are PM and AQI?

PM is the abbreviation for particulate matter, mostly particles of dust and combustion products, that are added to the air from by construction activity, fires of all kinds, petrol and diesel vehicles, industry and power plants. The numbers with PM indicate the size of these particles, measured in thousandths of a millimetre, or micrometre. PM10 thus refers to particles whose diameter is less than 10 micrometres, and PM2.5 to particles that are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. Micrometre is abbreviated as µm. PM10 consists of coarser particles that settle down over a day or two and are washed down by rain; PM2.5 particles are far more dangerous in that they stay aloft for longer periods of time, are easily carried by light winds and worst of all, can enter the bloodstream—and thus every organ—through the lungs. PM, besides being a Grade I carcinogen, has deadly effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of the human body, causing every imaginable disease, including asthma, heart attack, low birth weight, stroke and arteriosclerosis. PM pollution is not just a health concern, it is a mortality issue. A 2013 study of over 3 lakh Europeans in nine countries revealed that there was no safe level of particulates and that for every increase of 10 ?g/m3 in PM10, the lung cancer rate rose by 22%. For PM2.5, a 36% increase in lung cancer was associated with per 10 ?g/m3 rise in atmospheric concentration. AQI, or Air Quality Index, is a colour-coded scale devised by the government in 2014 that measures atmospheric concentrations of eight major pollutants, including PM, and relates them to health standards and implications to produce an easily understandable and relatable value for  citizens. Here’s what PM and AQI translate into for us:
AQI Category, Pollutants and Health Breakpoints
AQI Category (Range) PM10 (24hr) PM2.5 (24hr) NO2 (24hr) O3 (8hr) CO (8hr) SO2 (24hr) NH3 (24hr) Pb (24hr)
Good (0–50) 0–50 0–30 0–40 0–50 0–1.0 0–40 0–200 0–0.5
Satisfactory (51–100) 51–100 31–60 41–80 51–100 1.1–2.0 41–80 201–400 0.5–1.0
Moderately polluted (101–200) 101–250 61–90 81–180 101–168 2.1–10 81–380 401–800 1.1–2.0
Poor (201–300) 251–350 91–120 181–280 169–208 10–17 381–800 801–1200 2.1–3.0
Very poor (301–400) 351–430 121–250 281–400 209–748 17–34 801–1600 1200–1800 3.1–3.5
Severe (401–500) 430+ 250+ 400+ 748+ 34+ 1600+ 1800+ 3.5+
 
AQI Associated Health Impacts
Good (0–50) Minimal impact
Satisfactory (51–100) May cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people.
Moderately polluted (101–200) May cause breathing discomfort to people with lung disease such as asthma, and discomfort to people with heart disease, children and older adults.
Poor (201–300) May cause breathing discomfort to people on prolonged exposure, and discomfort to people with heart disease.
Very poor (301–400) May cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases.
Severe (401–500) May cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.

The too little, too late Indian response was in evidence as the Delhi government announced odd-even rationing of privately owned cars from November 13 under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that was officially imposed in Delhi-NCR on Thursday. The bad news didn’t stop: a change in the wind direction is set to add further ‘poison’ to the national capital’s air on Friday, officials said.
As Delhi-NCR suffocates, Union Health Minister JP Nadda is in Himachal Pradesh and Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan is in Goa

Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gehlot announced the third phase of the odd-even scheme from November 13 to 17. However, according to the members of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA), November 13 is too late as the “emergency or severe-plus” category under GRAP calls for immediate implementation of the odd-even car rationing scheme. “We had been telling them (Delhi government) to stay ready since last week and even during Tuesday’s EPCA meeting… The Delhi government said it was prepared to roll out the odd-even right away… Now they are saying they can roll it out only on Monday (November 13). This won’t help much,” CPCB Member Secretary and EPCA Member A. Sudhakar said. Off the charts The “emergency” or “severe-plus” situation arises after the major pollutants — PM2.5 and PM10, or particles in air with diameter less than 2.5 and 10mm, remain above 300 and 500 units, respectively, for at least 48 hours. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Thursday informed that both PM2.5 and PM10 had been beyond the “safe limits” for the past 52 hours or since 7 a.m on Tuesday, November 7. On Thursday (since Wednesday evening), all the 10 monitoring stations of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (Safar) recorded “beyond severe” or 500-plus units of PM10 and PM2.5. As per SAFAR, the average PM2.5 was 546 units and PM10 was 895. According to the CPCB, at 5 pm, the average PM2.5 reading on the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi-NCR across 20 active stations (including Alwar in Rajasthan) was 478 units (on a scale of 0 to 500). The safe limit for PM2.5 and PM10 as per international standards is 25 and 60 microgrammes per cubic metre, while as per national standards it is 40 and 100 units, respectively. Hospitals swamped The alarming pollution in Delhi has led to at least 20 per cent increase in the number of persons complaining of cardiac/respiratory problems this week, officials said on Thursday. “There has been around 15 to 20 per cent increase in number of patients seeking treatment for respiratory and cardiac issues,” All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Randeep Guleria told IANS. Similarly, Safdarjung Hospital witnessed a 15 per cent rise in number of patients while Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj area recorded 25 per cent increase in patients with breathing problems. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital had on Wednesday indicated rise in number of such patients by 25-30 per cent. Speaking to reporters earlier, the AIIMS Director had warned that about 30,000 persons may lose their lives in the National Capital Region alone due to current pollution levels, numbers which, he said, he had extrapolated from the number of hospital admissions. Guleria also likened the current environmental situation in Delhi with the “Great Smog of London in 1952” that was “estimated to have killed nearly 4,000 persons within a week”. It’ll get worse before it gets better Meanwhile, forecasting some relief for Delhi-NCR from November 14 onwards, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said rain in parts of Haryana, western Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab would help disperse the effluents, thereby normalising the air quality in Delhi. “Relief is likely from Sunday, when the wind speed would increase. However, the western disturbance, which is expected to arrive in this region from November 14, would bring major relief as it could rain. This is so far the best hope under the present conditions,” Charan Singh, weather forecast chief at IMD, told IANS. However, the relief would come only after Delhi has seen its worse, as air quality in the capital, which is already “beyond severe”, is set to deteriorate further since the light winds from Punjab and Haryana started entering Delhi on Thursday. As the stubble burning continues unabated in Punjab and Haryana, which is also a major cause of the present air quality situation in Delhi, the winds coming from there would further affect the air in Delhi-NCR. According to the IMD and private weather forecasting agency Skymet, the wind speed is less —five to 10 kmph, but this is enough to bring effluents and not disperse them due to its low speed. The inevitable committee The Union Environment Ministry on Thursday formed a seven-member committee to work out short and long -term measures to fight air pollution. The Union Ministry held a meeting headed by Environment Secretary C.K. Mishra along with the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) chairman Bhure Lal and member Sunita Narain, along with officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The seven-member committee which will be headed by Environment Secretary Mishra also includes Secretary Science and Technology Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary Department of Biotechnology Prof K. Vijay Raghavan, Chairman CPCB S.P. Singh Parihar, Chief Secretary, Delhi M.M. Kutty. Gadkari says more research needed Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said thorough research was needed to find the cause of rising pollution levels in the National Capital Region. Stressing that smog had engulfed the city this year despite a ban on crackers and restrain on burning of crops, he said research is required to find out the reason behind the rising pollution levels and that his Ministry will offer all possible help for such research, a government statement said. Gadkari said directions have been issued to project directors, contractors and field-level officials working on highways projects around the national capital to take stringent steps to check pollution arising out of the construction work. Amarinder repeats his stubble plea Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking compensation for farmers for crop residue management to check the dangerous trend of stubble burning, which has triggered a major smog crisis in the northern belt of the country. Amarinder Singh also requested the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of Chief Ministers of the affected states along with the Union Ministers for Agriculture, Food and Environment on the issue. Reiterating his request, earlier raised in a letter on July 5 this year, the Chief Minister sought the Prime Minister’s intervention for arresting the problem of paddy straw burning by providing a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal as incentive to compensate the farmers to manage the crop residue scientifically. Back to normal soon, environment minister says from Goa Air quality levels in the national capital will come back to normal within the “next few days”, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, an MP from Delhi, said on Thursday. “Whether the steps which have to be taken by the Delhi government, they should be doing it in complete, total sincerity and similarly the state governments of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan.. They all have to step in to fulfil their part of the responsibility. And I am sure in the very near future, in the next few days, things will return to normal,” he told reporters on sidelines of an event organised at the National Institute of Oceanography near here. Kejriwal sticks to stubblepointing Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday blamed stubble burning for the “severe” air quality and said the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab should come together with Delhi to find a solution. Kejriwal had on Wednesday written to his Haryana and Punjab counterparts for a meeting on the issue but Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, in an exchange of tweets, declined it saying air pollution level in the National Capital Region wasn’t an inter-state matter and needed the Centre’s intervention. “I haven’t yet got a chance to meet the two Chief Ministers,” Kejriwal said after inaugurating 20 Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations here. “This one month period from the mid-October to mid-November, when farmers burn the stubble, the whole of North India and not just Delhi turns into a gas chamber,” he said. “In September this year, the PM10 was recorded at 300 units and PM2.5 was 160. Now these figures have gone up to 940 and 750. This certainly hasn’t happened due to the local problems,” he explained.   High Court calls for cloud seeding The Delhi High Court on Thursday said there was an “emergency situation” vis-a-vis pollution in Delhi-NCR region and asked the Delhi government to consider vehicular odd-even scheme and cloud seeding to induce artificial rain. The court also asked the Centre to hold meetings with Delhi and National Capital Region authorities to bring in short-term measures to control pollution immediately and to submit a report to it on November 16, the next date of hearing. A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also directed the Chief Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Control to call an emergency meeting with his counterparts in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and pollution control agencies within three days to discuss ways to curb pollution.

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