DNA Exclusive: Stubble burning throttles Delhi-NCR, poses air pollution challenges

The pollution in Delhi and surrounding cities on Thursday broke the record of this season.

DNA Exclusive: Stubble burning throttles Delhi-NCR, poses air pollution challenges
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New Delhi: The air pollution has become a major health hazard but policymakers in India are unable to find a concrete solution to this ever-increasing menace in the wake of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. The Government of India has already launched the National Clean Air Programme in January 2019 to reduce pollution levels by 30 to 40 per cent till 2024, but it has failed make any mark while nearly two years has already elapsed. 

Raging farm fires and a fall in the wind speed and temperatures pushed air quality in Delhi-NCR to the worst levels in around a year on Thursday, and the share of stubble burning in Delhi's pollution rose to 42 per cent, the maximum so far this season, according to a central government air quality monitoring agency.

The stubble burning accounted for five per cent of Delhi's pollution on Wednesday, 10 per cent on Tuesday, 16 on Monday and 40 on Sunday, while Delhi's pollution, due to stubble burning, had peaked to 44 per cent on November 1, according to Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor, SAFAR. 

The pollution in Delhi and surrounding cities today broke the record of this season. For the last 48 hours, the condition of these cities is so bad that you cannot breathe properly. The pollution has also eclipsed Sun and there is no sunshine in Delhi and if you do not live in Delhi or nearby cities, you consider yourself happy and lucky.

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The excessive air pollution has affected people who are complaining of suffocation, eye irritation and headache. In Delhi today, the thick fog had enveloped the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday morning, and the famous India Gate too was not visible from a particular distance.

Delhi's air quality today dropped to its worst level since December 2019, and its average air quality index (AQI) was noticed 508, while it was 596 on IIT-Delhi. In Noida, however, the AQI was 649. Notably, an AQI between zero and 50 is considered "good", 51 and 100 "satisfactory", 101 and 200 "moderate", 201 and 300 "poor", 301 and 400 "very poor", and 401 and 500 "severe"

All the 36 monitoring stations in Delhi recorded air quality in the 'severe' category, while the neighbouring cities of Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Gurgaon and Noida also recorded 'severe' air pollution.

According to the SAFAR app, the farm fire count in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and neighbouring areas increased significantly and stood at 4,135 on Wednesday, the highest this season so far. It said the share of stubble burning in Delhi's PM2.5 pollution was estimated at 42 per cent for Thursday.

Since this smoke emanating from this stubble burning has throttled crores of people in North India, the DNA report will also tell you the solution while raising this problem. First of all, understand how this problem commences every year.

With the onset of winter, work begins to remove the crop residue (stubble) and weeds in the fields of Punjab and Haryana, as farmers gear up for wheat plantation in next 15 to 20 days. Due to the fire in the straw, the fields are completely cleared, but these burning fields and smoke emanating from them make the air poisonous. 

It is difficult for farmers to adopt other methods of removing the straw. With the help of technology it can be accomplished but taking the help of machines is very expensive. Although stubble burnt every year, the state governments do not get ready in advance to prevent it. Farmers too are not given subsidy and machines in time.

In the year 2020, paddy crop has been grown in Punjab's 66 lakh acres of land area which is equal to 18 cities like Delhi. Although Punjab is known as the feeder state for the rest of the country, the burning fields here also produce smoke that chokes our lungs. 

The stubble burning has not only affected our health but has also impacted the country's economy, causing a huge loss of around Rs 2 lakh crore. 

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