Delhi’s Bermuda Triangle: Winter, Stubble Burning and Covid19

Delhi air pollution reaches dangerous level

By Diksha Sinha

New Delhi recorded another day with poor Air Quality Index which accounted to six consecutive bad air quality days from November 4th to November 9th. According to the report by Central Pollution Control Board, the air quality slightly improved as compared to the past two days where the air levels reached the “dangerous” category. The reason behind this slight relief has been a change in wind direction from north westerly to north-north easterly as it reduced contribution of stubble burning. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the poor air quality is likely to deteriorate till Friday. Calm winds and low temperature traps the air pollutants to the ground whereas favorable wind speeds helps in the dispersion of air pollutants. The CPCB had ordered closure of hot mix plants and stone crushers in Delhi till November 17th to curb pollution. Also they requested the Punjab and Haryana government to take immediate actions to reduce stubble burning.

Stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have been one of the root causes for air pollution in Delhi. The raging farm fire with unfavorable windspeed and fall in temperature pushed the air pollution level to extremes. Stubble burning is when the harvest leaves behind stalks of crops which are to be cleared before the winter season starts for which the farmers set them on fire. Stubble burning has accounted around 42% share in Delhi’s air pollution which has been the highest compared to previous years. According to a report from SAFAR, there has been 20 percent increase in stubble burning cases as compared to in the year 2019.

The Aam Admi Party government has been trying to put out guidelines to help fix the problem of air pollution in New Delhi. With Diwali season coming, the National Green Tribunal imposed a total ban of sale and usage of crackers. The ban started from 9th November and will extend till 30th November. Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal announced that he will perform “Diwali Pujan” at Akshardham Temple on November 14th and he invited people to join him. The pujan will be live telecasted as it will be an auspicious time to pray and create “wonderful vibrations”. Kejiriwal mentioned that due to rise in level of air pollution, the Covid19 cases and mortalities have also been increasing. He requested people to join him in the worship on Diwali instead of bursting crackers.

The Air Quality Index when crossed the mark of 400 created a sense of emergency as with ongoing pandemic, people are now more exposed to risks. The Director at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Randeep Guleria stated that
air pollution is a silent killer which contributes to up to 40% deaths in patients with chronic illness. There is a clear connection between rise in pollution and spike in covid19 cases as these air pollutants affect our lungs which makes us more vulnerable to the virus.