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Delhi Pollution and Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi

Delhi-NCR, one of India’s most populous and bustling regions, is once again battling a grave air pollution crisis, as the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached shocking levels, with Anand Vihar recording an AQI of 999. The ongoing smog and haze have engulfed the region for the third consecutive day, raising concerns about public health and the environment. In this article, we explore the recent escalation in air pollution and its potential impact on the Delhi-NCR area.

The winter of 2022-23 in Delhi saw unusually cleaner air compared to the previous year while in Mumbai pollution levels rose, possibly due to La Niña and regional wind patterns.

Delhi Pollution

Delhi’s air pollution crisis has reached alarming levels, with AQI readings surpassing 999 in Anand Vihar and exceeding 450 in Noida. The city is shrouded in a persistent smoky haze, posing severe health risks, especially for vulnerable groups like children and the elderly. The situation is exacerbated by farm fires, adverse weather conditions, and vehicular emissions. Strict measures and collaborative efforts are imperative to address this dire issue and protect the well-being of Delhi’s residents.

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Pollution in Delhi

Delhi, the capital of India, faces chronic air pollution issues. Factors contributing to the problem include vehicular emissions, industrial pollution, construction dust, and agricultural practices like crop residue burning. The city often experiences “severe” air quality, with high levels of particulate matter and pollutants. Government initiatives, such as the “Odd-Even” scheme, aim to combat vehicular pollution. The situation worsens during winter months, leading to health concerns and necessitating strict regulations and efforts to control pollution sources.

Delhi Air Pollution

Delhi’s air pollution is a persistent and concerning issue. The city frequently experiences poor air quality, characterized by high levels of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Key factors contributing to Delhi’s air pollution include vehicular emissions, industrial activities, construction dust, and crop residue burning.

The government has implemented measures like the “Odd-Even” scheme, introduced CNG buses, and enforced emission standards to address the problem. The issue becomes more acute during winter months due to adverse weather conditions and agricultural practices. Efforts continue to improve air quality and protect public health.

Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi

Government agencies have issued warnings of deteriorating pollution levels in Delhi-NCR over the coming days, with the national capital currently enveloped in a thick smoky haze. This concerning situation is attributed to a surge in farm fires and unfavourable weather conditions. The Air Quality Index (AQI) in the Anand Vihar area of the capital reached 415 on a scale of 500, signalling “severe” pollution levels, which can have adverse health effects, especially for individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi is a measure that indicates the level of air pollution in the city. It takes into account various air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3), and calculates a single value to provide an overall assessment of air quality. The AQI typically categorizes air quality on a scale from “Good” to “Hazardous,” with specific colour codes and health implications associated with each category.

Delhi often experiences AQI values that fall into the “Poor,” “Very Poor,” or “Severe” categories, indicating elevated levels of air pollution and potential health risks. The government and environmental agencies regularly monitor and report AQI levels to inform the public and take measures to mitigate air pollution.

Air Pollution in Delhi

Air pollution in Delhi is a chronic and significant problem. The city consistently faces poor air quality, primarily due to various factors. Vehicular emissions, industrial activities, construction dust, and crop residue burning are major contributors to the elevated levels of air pollutants in the region.

During the winter months, Delhi’s air quality tends to deteriorate further due to adverse weather conditions, which trap pollutants close to the surface. This results in smog and increased health risks for residents.

Reasons for Delhi Air Pollution

The escalation of pollution levels in Delhi during the winter months can be attributed to a combination of factors:

  • Stubble Burning: Farmers in neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana burn crop residues to prepare their fields for the next season. This practice releases substantial smoke and particulate matter, which are carried by the wind to Delhi. In 2021, stubble burning contributed to 25% of Delhi’s pollution, emitting harmful gases like Carbon Monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), and volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  • Wind Direction: The prevailing wind direction in Delhi during the winter months is northwesterly. These winds transport dust and smoke from neighbouring regions when stubble burning occurs in Haryana and Punjab. A change in wind direction can influence the extent to which these pollutants enter the city.
  • Temperature Inversion: Temperature inversion is a weather phenomenon where the air temperature increases with altitude, trapping pollutants close to the ground. During Delhi’s cold and calm winter weather, temperature inversion leads to the accumulation of pollutants in the lower atmosphere, forming a thick layer of smog.
  • Dry and Still Air: Winters in Delhi are characterized by reduced rainfall and low wind speed, preventing the dispersion and dilution of pollutants. Consequently, these pollutants remain suspended in the air for longer durations.
  • Vehicular and Industrial Emissions: Delhi’s high population and extensive vehicle count contribute significantly to air pollution, emitting harmful gases and particulate matter. Industrial activities in and around the city further exacerbate the problem by burning fossil fuels and releasing chemicals into the atmosphere.
  • Dust Storms, Firecrackers, and Biomass Burning: Other sources of pollution that intensify during winters include dust storms, which carry dust particles from arid regions; the use of firecrackers during festivals, releasing smoke and metals; and domestic biomass burning for heating, adding carbon monoxide and particulate matter to the air. A 2015 study found that biomass burning alone accounts for 17-26% of all particulate matter in Delhi during winters.

Delhi’s Air Quality and La Nina

Delhi’s Air Quality and La Nina

Reasons For cleaner air in Delhi during the winter of 2022-23:

  • La Niña: This climate phenomenon resulted in cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, influencing the regional climate and air quality.
  • Wind Patterns: Altered wind patterns associated with the La Niña cycle contributed to cleaner air by dispersing pollutants more efficiently.
  • Reduction in Stubble Burning: There was a reduction in stubble-burning smoke intrusion from the adjoining states of Punjab and Haryana into parts of the Delhi region, which typically contributes to higher pollution levels.

Reasons for Mumbai experienced poorer air quality:

  • Local Pollutants: The city saw an increase in locally produced pollutants which were trapped along with relatively calmer surface-level winds.
  • Elevated Pollution Levels: During the period from November 2022 to January 2023, surface-level winds from the northern and northwestern parts of the country were stronger, contributing to the increased pollution.
  • Absence of Cold Day Conditions: The lack of cold day conditions may have prevented the early removal of pollutants, exacerbating stagnation conditions that can prevent dispersion of pollutants.

What is La Niña?

Aspect La Niña
Meaning La Niña means Little Girl in Spanish.
Sea surface temperature It represents the periodic cooling of sea-surface temperatures across the east-central equatorial Pacific.
Pressure It contain low air surface pressure in the eastern Pacific
Mechanism During La Niña events, trade winds are even stronger than usual, pushing more warm water toward Asia, resulting in a stronger Walker cell.
Period of occurrence Typically occurs every 3-5 years and lasts 1-3 years.
  • Excessive rainfall in the eastern Australia
  • Drought conditions prevail in the South America
  • Strong upwelling over the west coast of South America.
Impact on Indian Monsoon La Nina causes high temperatures over the Indian Ocean, off the Somalian coast and a comparatively better monsoon rains in India.

Government Initiatives to Control Delhi’s Pollution

Government Initiatives to Control Delhi’s Pollution Description
Green War Room A nine-member team monitoring actions taken by 20 government agencies in real-time and daily.
Anti-Pollution Campaign Delhi Government’s Yuddh Pradushan Ke Viruddh campaign, including tree transplantation and other initiatives.
Green Delhi App A mobile app for citizens to report pollution instances such as garbage burning, industrial emissions, and traffic congestion.
Bio-Decomposer Solution by PUSA institute for farmers to decompose crop residue without burning, with the government providing free spraying of bio-decomposer.
Water Sprinklers Use of water sprinklers, road sweeping machines, anti-smog guns, and sprinkling facilities to reduce dust and particulate matter.
Industry Pollution Monitoring industrial sites, ensuring clean fuel usage, extending piped natural gas to industries, and establishing an e-waste eco-park.
PUC Certificates Enforcement of pollution under control (PUC) certificates for vehicles, banning non-essential goods-carrying trucks, and adding 1,000 private CNG vehicles to public transport.
Smog Towers Installation of smog towers with fans and filters to purify the air. The first tower is at Connaught Place and has shown positive effects.
Pollution Hotspots Identification of 21 pollution hotspots in Delhi, deploying special teams to monitor and mitigate pollution sources in these areas.

Delhi Pollution UPSC

Delhi-NCR faces a severe air pollution crisis, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching alarming levels, notably Anand Vihar recording an AQI of 999. This persistent smog and haze have raised significant concerns for public health and the environment. The problem is exacerbated by farm fires, unfavorable weather conditions, and vehicular emissions. The government has implemented various initiatives, such as the “Green War Room” for real-time monitoring, an anti-pollution campaign, the “Green Delhi App” for citizen reporting, and measures like the use of “Bio-Decomposer” to address crop residue burning. Additionally, water sprinklers, smog towers, and pollution hotspots are being targeted to combat the issue comprehensively.

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Delhi Pollution FAQs

What is the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi?

The AQI in Delhi fluctuates, but it often falls in the "Poor" to "Severe" range, with readings exceeding 999 at times.

What contributes to air pollution in Delhi during winters?

Stubble burning, adverse wind direction, temperature inversion, dry air, vehicular and industrial emissions, and other factors worsen air quality.

What measures has the Delhi government taken to combat pollution?

Initiatives include the Green War Room, anti-pollution campaigns, the Green Delhi App, bio-decomposer, water sprinklers, PUC certificates, smog towers, and identifying pollution hotspots.

How does pollution affect public health in Delhi?

Pollution leads to respiratory problems, especially among children and the elderly, exacerbating conditions like asthma and coughs.

About the Author

Greetings! I'm Piyush, a content writer at StudyIQ. I specialize in creating enlightening content focused on UPSC and State PSC exams. Let's embark on a journey of discovery, where we unravel the intricacies of these exams and transform aspirations into triumphant achievements together!

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