by Siya Aggarwal and Mihika Kapoor
India’s capital city, New Delhi, has been reported to enter the emergency zone on Wednesday 12th of November. Due to the geographic location, Delhi is surrounded by stubble burning, while it’s people choke on the degrading air quality.
There has been a significant drop in the wind speed and temperature, which results in the assembly of pollutants and particulate matter released from the stubble fires. The temperature on the 11th of November was reported to be 11.7 degrees Celsius which is 2 degrees lower than the average temperature for this season. This unexpected spike in air pollution took place on 12th November, coincidentally was a day where the govt didn’t enforce the odd-even car number rationing in honor of the 550th birthday of the founder of Sikhism.
Meteorologists are working with organizations such as System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) and Central Pollution Control Bureau (CPCB) to gain a better understanding of the severity of this issue. Accumulating their understandings and data drawn from 37 AQI (air quality index) measuring devices, it can be seen that Delhi is at 425 when recorded on Tuesday 11th, at 4 pm IST. The UN’s range of acceptable AQI (air quality index) values is 51-1oo, and when compared to our staggering 425 this raises serious concerns amongst the people.
Citizens can be seen wearing pollution masks and celebrities like Priyanka Chopra Jonas took to social media to share a selfie where she’s wearing a pollution mask, demanding that the Indian government do something about this health issue. The levels of PM (particulate matter) shot up from 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter to a shocking 292 micrograms per cubic meter, which exceeds the ‘acceptable’ pm range of 0-60 micrograms per cubic meter. Finer particulate matter or scientifically known as PM10 has exceeded acceptable ranges by 4 times with it’s recorded value is at 436 micrograms per cubic meter. PM10, in breathable and can be lodged in the respiratory tracts of individuals and citizens with a history of the following diseases: asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia are suffering immensely. Along with that, the pollutant caused haze/smog has delayed several flights and on the 12th of November, it has reduced its road visibility to 1.2 km.
Paired with Delhi’s haze sweeping over to the neighboring states, Punjab specifically, the situation will only worsen. As per Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), there have been 2189 cases of stubble burning recorded on Sunday 10th November alone. Stubble burning is a process that is used by farmers to clear farming land, which unfortunatally leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. due to the states sharing borders, the emissions released in Punjab have a direct impact on the haze and pollution levels or suburban Delhi. Paired with the alarming AQI of Delhi, the PRSC’s noticed an upward trend in the recorded cases of stubble burning, and since the 23rd of September 2019, stubble burning has increased to 48,815!
This damage to the air quality, drop in temperature and haze will not be likely to subside anytime soon, and the government might be considering officially declared Delhi as an ‘emergency zone.’ Initiatives such as the odd-even car number plate rationing, banning fireworks, etc are commendable for sure, but given the severity of the issue, the government will perhaps implement more severe regulations in order to control the degrading air quality of our nation’s capital.