Crop fires wrap Delhi in a smog screen, hit air quality

New Delhi, 24.10.2016: Crop fires that continue to rage in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh have started impacting the  air quality in the capital, experts said as satellite images showed the northern plains covered in smog.

Delhi’s air quality index plunged to “very poor” levels on Sunday, and remained there on Monday. Sunday’s satellite image of the region from NASA’s EOSDIS website indicates an increase in the number of crop fires in Punjab, northern Haryana and the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, as compared with the previous week.

The image also shows the region thick smog/smoke over the region.

“Punjab and Haryana farmers started burning their paddy stubbles more than two weeks ago. Smoke from those fires have now spread across the northern plains, as the satellite image shows, and have started contributing to air pollution in Delhi and other cities,” said a scientist at SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), which monitors air quality in the capital.
Calm atmospheric conditions and falling temperatures are causing the smoke to hang over the region, the expert said.
The effect of the smog can be seen across cities in the region. According to the daily bulletin released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the air quality index on Mondaywas at “very poor” levels in Kanpur, Lucknow and Muzaffarpur, and in the “poor” category in Agra and Patna.
In Delhi, the AQI on Monday was 306, only slightly better than 318 the previous day. SAFAR calculated Monday’s AQI in the capital at 316. An index reading of above 300 is categorised as “very poor”, which is just a notch below the “severe” level (above 400). Crop fires in neighbouring states, despite a ban on the practice, usually last till the second half of November. How much effect the fires have on Delhi’s air quality depends on meteorological factors such as wind direction and speed, as well as temperatures.