Delhi government must issue health alerts and take emergency action as well as more permanent measures
As visibility remains poor and the city chokes its way through a haze, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has pressed the alarm buttons on one of the worst smog cases in many years in Delhi. The CSE experts say that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) suggests that the smog on November 2, 2016 was the worst in 17 years.
Says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), CSE and head of CSE’s air pollution and sustainable mobility teams: “This demands emergency response to protect the vulnerable— those who are suffering from respiratory and heart diseases and children. The government should aggressively inform all and advise them to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercises. At the same time, it should roll out stringent winter pollution control for all sources along with emergency action.”
The CSE analysis of available official data brings out the following:
Post-Diwali peak of pollution is higher than the Diwali peak.
Worst ever smog in 17 years—November 2, 2016
According to the Indian Meteorological Department, this is the worst smog with very poor visibility in 17 years. The Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi recorded the worst levels of smog in 17 years on November 2, with visibility as low as 300-400 metres. The period between 11AM and 2:30 PM was the worst in the day with respect to airport visibility. The post-Diwali smog reduced the visibility there to 800-1,200 metres since October 30. Pollution during Diwali and other sources of pollution along with weather-related factors lead to such abnormal levels of smog.
Meteorological scientists explain that lower level anticyclone—a weather phenomenon which prevented the dispersion of smog— developed around Delhi on November 2, 2016. There was virtually no wind in the vertical column. This situation is expected to persist for few more days.
The Central Pollution Control Board has already warned that the average wind speed this year on Diwali day was much less—1.3 m/s compared to 3.4 m/s in 2015. Also, the mixing height this year was 492 metres, whereas in 2015 it was 590 metres. The lower wind speed and mixing height do not allow wind to disperse quickly leading to higher concentration of pollutants on the surface.
Unending paddy burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh
The satellite images of NASA’s fire mapper showed that incidences of paddy burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have increased after Diwali. The images clearly revealed that after October 30, 2016, crop burning in the Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh became more aggressive, leading to severe smog in the national capital.
“Delhi needs strong action to protect people from such deadly exposure. It is imperative to put out hard health evidences and heath alerts in the public domain to sensitise people about the harmful effects of smog and push action. Delhi needs an effective winter pollution mitigation plan that can make a difference. Without a strong action, smog is only expected to get worse this winter. It comes with serious public health costs,” says Roy Chowdhury.
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