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20.1 C
Varanasi
Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Why is Delhi’s air quality so poor, and will continue to be so even after a crackerless Diwali?

Delhi’s air quality deteriorated as it entered the “very poor” category for the first time this season. The overall air quality index (AQI) of the city was 303 on Tuesday as against 281 in the “poor” category on Monday.

Anyone who had listened solely to the motivated campaign and government/judicial orders against bursting firecrackers on Diwali, could be excused for believing that with the cracker ban, the air quality should be much improved. But instead, it has worsened, even before Diwali!

This just reiterates what science has been telling us all along. Diwali firecrackers are not responsible for Delhi’s air pollution woes every winter. Studies by reputed scientific bodies such as TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), IIT Kanpur,  SAFAR (System for Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) GoI have all shown that firecrackers do not contribute to air pollution in any significant way. They aren’t even in the top 15 causes of pollution.

Source: TERI Report

But why does the air quality become so much worse in winter, when most of these causes of pollution exist all-year round? It’s due to the seasonal weather and climatic conditions. The recent deterioration happened primarily due to a dip in mercury levels of Delhi and due to calmer winds.

With winter setting in, calm wind conditions, shallow mixing layer height and low temperature cause accumulation of pollutants. Low temperature makes the wind heavier which slows the dispersion of pollution.

The seasonal stubble burning which is rampant in whole of Punjab and parts of Haryana at this time of the year plays a far bigger part in Delhi’s pollution woes than firecrackers.

Fire map of India as on October 31, 2021. [Credit – NASA FIRMS database] – https://twitter.com/aalokelab/status/1454861867076100107

Just days before Diwali, farmers in Amritsar, Punjab burnt stubble in their fields.

The impact of this stubble burning varies with wind direction. As per SAFAR, during November 4-6 (Diwali and the next two days), the share of stubble burning in PM2.5 is expected to be in the range of 20-38% as the wind direction is likely to change to north-westerly.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, said, “We have hit the first ‘very poor day’ of the season. Air quality is expected to worsen with winter conditions hardening and trapping pollution. We need a clear strategy in Delhi and across the region to prevent a full-blown smog episode.”

No government, judge or bureaucrat dares take on the farmers who do this stubble burning, despite laws against it . Electoral consequences aside, we have seen how a section of privileged farmers and arhityas (middle-men) have brought Delhi’s border areas to a grinding halt for around 1 year, while governments and courts watched helplessly. Likewise, power plants, industry, automobile sector are untouchable as they are considered ‘indispensable’ and have strong lobbies.

It’s only the silent majority – the ordinary Hindu and the poor firecracker industry workers and traders – who can be bullied by the state and the 5-star environment activists/NGOs. We are the punching bags for the elites to feel good about themselves.

The verdict is clear: banning firecrackers is a meaningless exercise which only hurts Hindus and the indigenous firecracker industry based in Sivakasi, TN and other places. The way this ‘ban crackers’ campaign has acquired a pan-Bharat character shows that those pulling the strings are filled with Hindu hatred and want to kill public celebration and expression of this major Hindu festival. The secular Indian state, especially the judiciary, has also latched on to this campaign in its fervor to ‘transform/civilize’ Hindu society.

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