Air Pollution: North India breathes heavy, FIFA cautious

The last two weeks of September witnessed relatively unsafe air quality across the country. The AQI score by the Central Pollution Control Board indicated that Ghaziabad (AQI 217), Kanpur (AQI 200), Noida (AQI 144), Moradabad (AQI 142), Delhi (AQI 131), had the worst air quality, with PM 10 and PM 2.5 being the main culprits.

On several days Thane, Jodhpur and Nagpur experienced hazardous levels of air quality. Ludhiana, on September 21, had severe levels of air pollution with toxic NO2 levels being the primary reason.

Delhi is braced for potentially dangerous air pollution levels in winter due to the rampant burning of pet-coke, the city’s extremely lax pollution standards and crop burning in neighbouring states.

Pet-coke burning is forbidden in the US because of its sulphur and toxic metal laden fumes – including vanadium, nickel and iron – in India the fuel (derived from heavy oils) is burned freely by coal power plants. Also, pet-coke imports into India have grown by 23% each year for the last five years, and its fumes are a major cause of smog in the capital.

The annual crop burning in Haryana and Punjab worsens the problem: over 30 million tons of stubble from winter crops. It accounts for 12-60% of Delhi’s air pollution. PUC certificates can be easily bought in Delhi NCR, so much so that the EPCA reported that miniscule 2% of all vehicles tested failed their pollution checks.

FIFA not convinced

Adding to the city’s embarrassment, FIFA has stated that none of the Under – 17 World Cup matches will be played in Delhi after Diwali (October 19) as it is not convinced of the goverment’s post-firecracker clean up efforts. An indication of the city’s severe air quality is the fact that today evening (October 3), the PM 2.5 concentration at the city’s busiest junction was reported to be 985μg/m³, over 16 times higher than the prescribed safe limit of 60 μg/m³.

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