Annual meteorological data has revealed that 2018 was yet another year of improvement for Delhi’s air quality.
In 2018, the number of ‘Good’ to ‘Moderate’ days — based on air pollution levels — jumped to 159 from 152 in the previous year and only 108 in 2016.
This was accompanied by a reduction in the number of ‘Poor’ to ‘Severe’ days to 2016 from 213 in the previous year and from 246 in the year before.
The improvement can also be seen in annual average values.
The annual average values of PM 10 — which measures large dust particles in the air — fell to 243 micro gram per cubic meter of air in the year gone by from 266 in 2017 and 291 in 2016.
Similarly, the PM 2.5 — which measures ‘fine dust’ in the air — fell to 115 micro grams from 124 in 2017 and 125 in 2016.
The year 2016 saw a big brouhaha in the national capital after conditions remained critical for several days in a row due to a combination of low air movement and burning of stubble in nearby agricultural areas.
Other prominent factors contributing to Delhi’s pollution include vehicles, industries, dust and construction activities, and the burning of solid waste.
The uproar over the ‘slow killing’ of Delhi’s citizens led to some action by state governments in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to bring stubble burning under control.
Last year, the central government also gave an in-principle approval for cloud seeding or artificial rain to relieve the toxic conditions that often accompany the onset of winter in the capital.
The effort was to be financed by the fund generated from the 1% Environment Protection Charge imposed on vehicle sales in the National Capital Region.
In November, the Project Appraisal & Approval Committee in charge of spending the money also approved a project of IIT Kanpur for artificial rain in Delhi.
However, the project could not take off this winter due to “unfavourable meteorological conditions etc.,” according to the central environment ministry.
Despite this, the reduction in air pollution in Delhi can be attributed partly to luck — as atmospheric conditions have been largely favorable — and partly to initiatives taken by the government in recent years to ease the situation.
The government has put in new rules for the management of construction and demolition waste, banned the burning of biomass and issued new rules on mandatory implementation of dust mitigation measures for construction and demolition activities.
The central government has also notified a Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) identifying timelines and implementing agency for actions identified for prevention, control and mitigation of air pollution in Delhi.