Role of Stubble burning in Delhi Pollution

Tags: State News

As per SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) data, the average contribution of stubble burning in neighboring states of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh  to Delhi’s PM 2.5 level in November was 14.6%,. The highest contribution of stubble burning to PM2.5 in Delhi for a day was 58% in 2018, 43% in 2019, and 46% in 2020. 

The number of effective fire counts in October­November (the stubble burning season) according to SAFAR data is around 77,000, the highest in four years.

Stubble Burning

Stubble Burning is the process of setting fire to the straw stubble that remains after grains like paddy and wheat are harvested. It is often preferred  by farmers because it’s cheaper and easier than other methods, helps to combat pests and also reduces soil nitrogen tie-up. But on the negative side it releases harmful particulate matter and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causing severe AQI(Air Quality Index) deterioration in Delhi every winter during October –November.

Major pollutants in Delhi

Ozone (O3): Also referred to as ground-level ozone. This is a colorless gas that forms above the earth's surface and is created by a chemical reaction when two primary pollutants (volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)) react in sunlight and stagnant air.

Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5): Particulate matter is a mixture of solid and liquid droplets suspended in air and are distinguished by their size. When the skies are hazy, it means there is a high concentration of particulate matter (PM) in the air. The PM is categorised as PM10 and PM 2.5. PM10 particles are less than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter. Whereas, PM2.5 particles are less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers in diameter. 95% of emissions from diesel, petrol, and natural gas combustion, open waste burning, biomass burning, coal combustion, falls under PM2.5.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2): Another dangerous air pollutant is a mixture of gases called nitrogen oxides. These groups of gases are odorless and react in the air to form particulate matter (PM) and ozone. Vehicles, power plants and fuel burning are the major source of nitrogen oxides.

Carbon monoxide (CO): This gas is highly toxic while at the same time being odorless and colourless. This gas constitutes one of the major outdoor pollutants. The burning of fossil fuels like diesel and petrol caused the emission of this gas.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2): The highly reactive gas called sulphur dioxide is released due to the burning of diesel in vehicles. The Sulphur dioxide then reacts with air to form particulate matter and also lead to smog.

SAFAR(System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research)

Under the scheme “Metropolitan Advisories for Cities for Sports, Tourism (Metropolitan Air Quality and Weather Services), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India, has introduced a major national initiative, "System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research" known as "SAFAR" for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India. It is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with partner institutions namely India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).

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