Delhi’s toxic air has always been a point of discussion. Every November, air pollution, not only in Delhi but in the whole of North India reaches unimaginable levels. Schools are shut and hospitals are full of wheezing patients. On Saturday, Delhi’s air quality slipped to the ‘very poor’ category according to the Ministry of Earth Science’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research.
According to the department, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at 336 and prediction was that it could only get worse. An AQI of 101-200 is considered moderate and 201-300 is ‘poor.’ However, Delhi’s AQI which falls under the ‘very poor’ range of 301-400 is, unfortunately, moving steadily towards the ‘severe’ category of 401-500. This is the last category defined by the AQI. For instance, the monitoring station at Mathura road recorded an AQI of 470 on Saturday.
As winter approaches, the car fumes, factory emissions, crop burning, and firecrackers make situations worse. Buying air pollution masks before winter clothing has become a sort of a yearly routine for residents of Delhi. Moreover, the unregulated crop burning in adjacent areas like Haryana and Punjab result in toxic air. This exceeds 30 times the limit specified by the World Health Organization. The farmers in these states burn leftover paddy stubble and loose straw from the Kharif season in order to ready the field to sow rabi crop. A staggering 20 million tonnes of stubble is burnt in open fields every year which releases toxic particulate matter like the hazardous PM 2.5.
Last year, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal met Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in order to address the problem. His request for a meeting with Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh was turned down. Apparently, the compensation being provided to the states is not enough incentive to stop the burning of crops. However, Punjab Government has offered a reward of a million dollars to anyone who comes up with an alternative.
The WHO in May listed 14 Indian cities in the world’s top 15 with the dirtiest air. However, Delhi was dubbed the most polluted major centre. With these natural as well as man-made causes, residents of Delhi and NCR once again stare at a health hazard.
By Abhishek Aggarwal