As pollution chokes NCR, govt looks to high-level meetings


A series of high-level meetings is slated in the next few days in the Environment Ministry and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to review the rising air pollution in the NCR of Delhi.

A review meeting by a panel, led by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), is also on the cards. The panel, comprising various ministries, states and departments, had a review meeting last week to chalk out an action plan till mid-November for tackling pollution in the post-Diwali period.

The CPCB is expected to present the outcome of its 46 monitoring units, which are keeping tab on pollution causing activities in the NCR.

As some areas in Delhi recorded all-time high air quality index (AQI) of 1,000 on Sunday, social media is abuzz with netizens seeking immediate government intervention.

According to some experts, this level of pollution is equivalent to smoking 33 cigarettes a day. In the highest pollution reading yet this season, the US embassy recorded PM-2.5 level of 802 at 1 p.m. The pollution level has been rising since 1 a.m.

Meanwhile, the slugfest between the central government and the Delhi government continues.

EESL, a joint venture of public sector undertakings (PSUs) in the Ministry of Power on Sunday criticised the Delhi government for not exempting electric vehicles from the odd-even scheme.

“Curbing air pollution due to vehicular pollution is at the core of the e-mobility programme of the government. It’s unfortunate that the Delhi government is not exempting EVs from the odd-even scheme”, EESL tweeted.

According to the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the unexpected drizzle on Saturday in a calm wind condition worked adversely and deteriorated the air quality.

The drizzle increased air-holding capacity and the mixing layer height became the seasons lowest at 50 meters, which aggravated the situation. The secondary aerosol build-up theory is supported by the fact that share of PM-2.5 in PM-10 now has increased to 80 per cent against the normal 50 per cent.

The season’s highest level of AQI of PM-2.5 has been recorded on Sunday as rapid secondary aerosol formation started in the wee hours.

SAFAR said drastic reduction had been recorded in stubble fire counts in Haryana and Punjab during the last 24 hours at just 57. However, dense cloud cover (which is there in the NCR) obscures active fire detection by satellite.

Although upper winds are north-westerly, if satellite count is to be believed, the biomass intrusion was limited and confined to less than 17 per cent as per the SAFAR model. The western disturbance (WD) is still persisting, which may increase wind speed and boundary layer height by Monday and influence Delhi’s air quality positively.

According to SAFAR, such rapid build-up doesn’t last long. The situation is likely to recover with sunlight coming and boundary layer going up. These are expected by late Sunday evening under the current situation.

“The AQI is expected to remain in the severe category till early Monday, but recover by late Monday to the upper end of very poor”, the forecast said.