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HyderabadExplainer: The rising air pollution in Delhi

Explainer: The rising air pollution in Delhi

Published: 15th Nov 2021 1:35 pm | Updated: 10th Dec 2021 10:22 am

Hyderabad: As soon as winter approaches, the national capital becomes vulnerable to toxic gases resulting in a public health emergency. 

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Notably, the blame goes on to burning of firecrackers during Diwali, stubble burning in neighboring States, vehicle pollution, industrial pollution, and many more to name. Yet, we don’t have a definite answer to simple questions like what makes the National Capital Region (NCR) a literal gas chamber? What are the sources of pollution? What can be done to curb the pollution? Who should take the blame? 

It’s been more than a week after Diwali, but the air quality in the NCR region seems to be hazardous as few residents in ITI Jahangirpuri, Anand Vihar, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, woke up to 300+ AQI on Sunday. The AQI of this level is termed dangerous as it affects human health and in this case, everyone is advised to stay indoors.

Is stubble burning a reason to deal with? 

The National Capital Region is landlocked between Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. And for the past many years, farmers in the neighboring States, who mostly grow rice and wheat, use harvesters to easily cut the crop and sell in the markets. To get rid of the stubble after harvest in a cost-efficient way, farmers set fire to the leftovers before going for the next round of cultivation. 

A study was done by a clutch of researchers from India, Mexico, and the US, by taking satellite data to understand the “groundwater conservation policies on air quality in northwest India”. The study points out that farmers in Haryana and Punjab have the highest produce of rice and wheat in South Asia.

According to the study, the “changing patterns of rice production and agricultural burning” increases air pollution. The substantial yield irrigation practices in the region would probably lead to fast depletion of groundwater levels, resulting in a threat to food security. In 2009, the Punjab and Haryana governments came up with water conservative laws to prohibit early sowing of paddy in the season in an attempt to reduce groundwater usage for irrigation. From then, the farmers pushed back sowing crops from May to June, to bring cultivation closer to the monsoon. Thus, this left very little time for the farmers to prepare for the next cycle, and also the paddy straw has higher contents of silica which cannot be used to feed livestock. Left out with no option, farmers clear out the paddy straw by burning. 

Vehicular Pollution

Delhi is said to have over 12 million registered motor vehicles which have doubled in the last decade. Motor vehicles release the most dangerous PM 2.5 pollutants which have long-lasting effects on health. As of 2020, the capital city’s population stood at 30.3 million, who contribute to the majority of the pollution through vehicles. 

According to a recent study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), 50% of Delhi pollution between October 24 and November 8 was contributed by vehicles, followed by household pollution over 12%.

Industrial and Construction activities 

Industrial pollution adds about 9.9%- 13.7% to the bad air, while large-scale construction activities contribute around 6.6%-6.9% in the National Capital Region. The biggest garbage landfills also result in pollution to an extent. 

Firecrackers during Diwali

The winter season and Diwali coincide with each other; it is argued that in the aftermath of Diwali, Delhi becomes prone to toxic gases. Each time one bursts firecrackers, it produces a lot of poisonous dust. Despite the Delhi government putting a blanket ban and also running campaigns like ”Patake Nahi, Diya Jalao”, air pollution has been on a rise. 


The situation has resulted in closure of schools, offices turning to work from home, and construction works coming to a halt.

The Supreme Court also intervened in the matter and expressed serious concern about the rising air pollution in the capital and asked the Union and Delhi government to take immediate measures to curb the pollution. The court highlighted the fact that there are other causes of pollution than stubble burning like vehicular pollution, firecrackers, etc. 

If  Delhi is in such a situation, where does Hyderabad stand in the air quality index? 

This data showcased belongs to (October 2021). While the air quality from (0-50) and (50-100) are said to be good and satisfactory. (100-200) is moderate, (201-300) is poor, very poor (301-400), above (400) is termed severe. 

Almost all the areas in Hyderabad fit into the first two categories- namely Jubilee Hills, Paradise, Uppal IDA, Jeedimetla, Abids, KBR park, Madhapur, MGBS, and many more to name. Whereas, it is moderate at Zoo Park, Pashamylaram, Balanagar, Charminar etc.

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