Sunday, December 10, 2023

delhi: Haze hood over Delhi-NCR, Gangetic plains next

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Experts call it the archetypal “haze hood” – currently overwhelming Delhi-NCR with ‘severe’ air pollution and set to spread down and smother the Indo-Gangetic plain – a ritual repeated year after year.While it is Delhi today facing over 400 AQI, several Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) districts are set to get smoked down over the next few days.

A March 2023 report of an expert panel (from IITs, Union environment ministry and Central Pollution Control Board) submitted to the National Green Tribunal, did a root cause analysis of the “haze hood” spectre and neatly mapped each step of course correction needed.

ET takes a look at the making of the “haze hood” that plagues the winters of the Gangetic plain.Rootcause Analysis
The panel takes a holistic viewpointing out that it is not an isolated case of Delhi-NCR as multiple factors and impacts are at play. There are 38 hot spot districts identified in the IGP across Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh that face severe AQI in October-November and PM2.5 ( man-made minute particulate emission) is the key culprit, the report says.

Industrial scale
The panel study shows that the highest emission source in IGP is due to industrial emissions- 48% of total PM 2.5 emissions at 1128Gg per year. The panel has called for strong technology shifts, better filtration and monitoring systems and barring all red category industries within 5 km radius of places with a population over a million.Open burning
15.5% of total PM2.5 emissions – 358Gg annually – in IGP are due to open burning with 70Gg due to crop residue burning in Punjab and Haryana at end of Kharif season.The panel recommends that regardless of GRAP level, measures on all open burning must be taken throughout October 15-November 20 and mean daily fires must be kept below 1000.

The Chulha
The report says that 19% of the total PM2.5 emissions are due to domestic sector emissions- primarily due to use of chulha and free solid fuel usage for cooking in rural/semi urban areas by nearly 3.6 crore families. The committee recommends provisions for two free LPG cylinders to these families, particularly in winter months – 7.2 crore cylinders- and better stove cooktops to arrest these emissions.

The step can reduce up to 108 Gg of net PM2.5 emissions over IGP.

Soil & Dust
10% of total PM2.5 emissions- 225Gg are attributed to soil and road dust especially in the dry winters. In a rapidly growing India, construction dust is another major contributor. Mission mode road repairs, greening, vacuum street sweeping, silt load removal every 50 kms on national highways, proper warehouses for storage of cement bags at railway siding and construction and demolition debris collection are recommended.

Transporting bad air
The report says that the contribution of vehicular emission has come down due to progressive tightening of tailpipe emissions rules but still stays at 5%- 118Gg a year. The panel has recommended a complete phase out of diesel-based city transport within five years besides developing a robust e-vehicles infrastructure.

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