Delhi and surrounding areas woke up to a thick haze and smog on Wednesday. The air pollution in Delhi-NCR hit emergency levels with the AQI of 500+. According to the government’s air quality monitoring system - System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research - the early morning readings of the NCR showed a bleak picture. While Noida registered a frightening AQI of 572, overall Delhi’s pollution level stood at 467. Gurugram was also in the emergency zone with an AQI of 511. Another monitoring agency - Central Pollution Control Board – also had similar results for Ghaziabad. The city recorded as AQI of 472 with Indirapuram’s AQI hovering at 466 and Vasundhara at 479. Other cities around Delhi such as Faridabad and Greater Noida fared no better. Faridabad’s AQI was registered at 441 and Greater Noida’s air was equally bad at 462.
According to experts, slow wind speed and drop in the temperature have aggravated the situation. On Tuesday, Delhi recorded a minimum temperature of 11.7 degrees Celsius, which was the season’s lowest so far. Officials say that the dense air is conducive of carrying more pollutants. The Union Environment Ministry’s bulletin released on Tuesday had said that, “The air quality is likely to deteriorate on Wednesday and reach upper end of severe category. The air quality is likely to deteriorate further on Thursday and may reach in severe plus category.”
Last week, the apex court had pulled up the Centre and state governments for their inability to curb stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and bring air pollution in Delhi under control. It had asked the governments if they feel ashamed that people are no longer safe even in their houses.
The top court had also ordered that all farmers be given a Rs 100 per quintal incentive to prevent them from setting their fields on fire in preparation for the next crop, and provide them free machines to get rid of the agriculture residue. The period between October 15 and November 15 is considered critical as a maximum number of stubble-burning incidents take place in this span in Punjab and adjoining states, which is one of the main reasons for the alarming spike in pollution in Delhi-NCR.
Despite a ban on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, farmers continue to defy it amid lack of financial incentives. State governments are providing 50 to 80 per cent subsidy to farmers and cooperative societies to buy modern farm equipment for in-situ management of paddy straw, but farmers say use of machines increases the input cost manifold.
According to an affidavit filed by the Centre in the Supreme Court, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh distributed around 63,000 machines to farmers during 2018-19. In 2019-20, as many as 46,000 machines have been distributed.
The Delhi Environment minister had on Monday said, "There are around 27 lakh farmers in Punjab alone. If the same speed continues, it will take another 60 years for the machines to reach every farmer...It seems stubble burning will continue at the same pace next year too."