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Introduction – 

Delhi – ranked the most polluted capital city in the world, the 22 million residents of the metropolis experience year-round air pollution, but levels of noxious air spike during the winter when winds carry farmland smoke into the city.

We are all aware of the extreme levels of pollution that our capital city experiences in the winter. 

But have you ever wondered why Delhi suffers from air pollution the most during the winter?

We should be conscious of the environment we live in and whether it is appropriate or sufficient for our health. (link)

Every year, the start of winter comes with the issue of air pollution in Delhi. In 2019, the average PM 2.5 exposure was 110 micrograms per cubic metre, which is 22 times the WHO standard and 22 times the amount that is regarded as safe.

Air pollution:

Air pollution is the contamination of the atmosphere by compounds that are dangerous to the health of people and other living things, or that impair the climate or materials.

The Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) categorizes the four levels of air quality in Delhi-NCR.

There are four stages as follows: 

  • Stage I, “Poor,” (AQI 201-300) 
  • Stage II, “Very Poor,” (AQI 301-400) 
  • Stage III, “Severe,” (AQI 401-450)
  • Stage IV, “Severe Plus,” (AQI >450)

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) increased from 357 (the “extremely poor” category) on October 28, 2022, to 402 on October 29, 2022.  Source 

An increase in air pollution is indicated by a higher AQI value.

Major sources of Air Pollution during winter – 

  1. Firecracker: We all love to have crackers during festivities, but while we enjoy the fireworks we often forget the impact it has on the environment and thus our health. Fireworks used during Diwali are a significant factor. Several limits on the purchase and use of firecrackers were put in place, but they don’t seem to have been sufficient. Fireworks significantly worsen air pollution quickly by dispersing metal particles, toxic chemicals, poisonous substances, and smoke that linger for hours or days. Some of the toxins never completely break down or disintegrate; instead, they stay in the environment, harming everything they come into contact with. According to India’s Center for Science and Environment, Air pollution brought on by Diwali firecrackers across India was connected to a 30–40% rise in people having trouble breathing.
  2. Stubble burning: Paddy straw burning in neighbouring states is one of the main causes of the worrisome increase in air pollution levels in the national capital in October and November, along with unfavourable weather conditions. Before producing wheat and vegetables, farmers burn their fields on fire to quickly remove the crop residue. (link) Farmers may easily and economically get rid of the stubble that remains on their fields after harvesting the paddy by burning it. It costs little to nothing. Due to its poor quality as animal feed, stubble is frequently useless to farmers.  It could be utilized as biomass, but in most places, there are either few or no facilities for producing biomass, and the cost of investing in mechanized machinery to remove the stubble is something that most farmers cannot afford. (Source)
  3. Denser cold air: Winter inversion results from the cold winter air being significantly denser than the warm summer air. Air is able to rise easily because the lowest layer of the atmosphere is warmer and lighter in the summer than it is in the winter. Because of this, the contaminants are removed from the ground. During the winter, the air close to the earth’s atmosphere is cooler and denser. Inversion is the process through which warm air captures cold air and creates an atmospheric lid. (Source) Within this layer, vertical air mixing takes place, which causes the contaminants to diffuse back into the atmosphere. The air quality suffers then since the inversion has more impact at night. Because of the high levels of pollution in the early morning, experts advise against taking morning walks or exercising. We advise people travelling on 2-wheelers to protect themselves from smog as this can be very harmful to you. Pollutants of various kinds are trapped in the suffocating winter air. Smog is created when smoke and fog combine. This haze poses a number of risks; in addition to impairing vehicles’ visibility, it is also harmful to breathing. Due to Delhi’s geographic isolation, the air has nowhere to go. Since the wind is blowing more slowly at this time of year, the dirty air remains in the capital for the longest period of time.
  4. Winter habits: Wintertime behavior typically results in increased amounts of air pollution, which can lead to worsening air quality. We frequently burn wood indoors and in fireplaces, which can increase the quantity of PM in our houses.  In addition, we tend to open windows less frequently in cold weather in an effort to save heat. As a result, there may be insufficient ventilation, which could lead to higher concentrations of pollution. Due to the increasing use of energy during the winter and idling cars, which release more pollutants, there is an increase in the combustion of fossil fuels outside, which worsens air pollution. (Source) 

    Effect of air pollution – Everybody’s health and welfare are significantly impacted by air pollution in a number of different ways. Short-term and long-term exposure to pollutants can result in a number of diseases, including lung cancer, asthma, and heart disease. The level of air pollution increases during winter for many reasons warm air flows faster and is less dense than cold air. Due to its density, chilly air collects pollutants rather than sweeps them away. Compared to the summer, air pollution is breathed in more frequently in the winter since it is present for a longer period of time.

    So, while we all enjoy ‘Delhi ki Thand’,  please make sure to take care of yourselves and take necessary measures to protect yourself from Smog. Luckily, technology has come a long way and there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from this hazardous gas.

    In addition to the nearly 4.2 million premature deaths that occur each year as a result of these exposures. PM, a haze of fine solid and liquid particles brought on by the combustion of fuel and vehicles, is the most frequent cause of these disorders.

    Conclusion:-  Level of air pollution increases during winter for many reasons like warm air flows faster and is less dense than cold air. Due to its density, chilly air collects pollutants rather than sweeps them away. Compared to the summer, air pollution is breathed in more frequently in the winter since it is present for a longer period of time. The likelihood of cooler days during the season will inevitably increase the number of “bad” to “severe” air quality days in the future for the entire IGP, particularly Delhi NCR. 

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