Air quality to plummet in India’s capital after a cleanup period

Air quality to plummet in India’s capital after a cleanup period

NEW DELHI, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Rains and intermittent winds caused an unusual drop in pollution in India’s capital last month, with residents breathing the cleanest air in at least four years, but authorities warn that air quality will drop dramatically in November.

A late end of the monsoon and a sharp increase in wind speed ensured that the concentration of small dangerous particles in the air known as PM2.5 in a cubic meter of air averaged 72 in October, when air quality generally worsens. .

That dropped dramatically from an average concentration of 126 recorded in October 2020, 25 times above the World Health Organization safe limit, according to data compiled by the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.

But factors such as falling temperatures, a drop in wind speed and farmers burning crop stubble are likely to make the air dangerous.

“Due to frequent rains, most farmers were unable to burn crop stubble, and now they have an even shorter window to dispose of crop debris,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Center’s think tank. Science and Environment.

New Delhi’s air pollution is a reminder of the challenges India faces as world leaders meet at the UN COP26 summit in Scotland to agree on strategies to combat global warming. read more

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government often invites criticism for not doing enough to curb pollution, said at the COP26 climate summit on Monday that India would hit a net zero carbon emission target by 2070. read more

Scientists said India’s target is at least two decades behind schedule.

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India, the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the United States, had previously rejected calls to announce a net zero carbon emissions target, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressed New Delhi to to present an ambitious emission reduction target. read more

India should actively strive for an earlier zero-emissions date after reassessing the situation in the coming years, said Avinash Kumar Chanchal, a climate activist at Greenpeace India.

“The next ten years will be crucial to achieving the climate goal and the action plan must begin to reduce emissions at the sources, as quickly and as possible,” he said.

In addition to concerns about air quality in New Delhi, the Diwali festival of lights is celebrated on Thursday when Indians lit firecrackers as part of an ancient Hindu tradition.

Delhi has banned the sale of firecrackers, but the authorities rarely impose such restrictions. read more

“The October air was clean, but we are really worried about November,” said a senior government official involved in formulating policies to curb air pollution. “Stubble burning could peak right after Diwali.”

Since 2018, India has given individual farmers a 50% subsidy and agricultural cooperatives an 80% subsidy to buy machines that remove rice stubble left in the field by mechanized harvesters.

Despite the subsidies, the machines are expensive. Farmers also complain that they must pay upfront and then claim subsidies, a process that takes around 10 months.

In October, burning of crop waste was reduced by 52% compared to the same month last year, government data showed.

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In Lahore, in neighboring Pakistan, not far from the Indian border, the air quality index rose to 341, the worst in the world on Monday, according to IQ Air. On Tuesday, the air quality in Pakistan’s second-most populous city was 162.

In the winter months, industrial and vehicular emissions, smoke from brick kilns and crop stubble fires cause a sharp increase in air pollution in Lahore, as in India.

Additional information from Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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