Air quality improves slightly as winds transport pollutants eastward

Gurugram’s air on Friday remained in the ‘very poor’ category, with the AQI (air quality index) recorded at 392, as per the Central Pollution Control Board’s daily bulletin.

This was a slight improvement from the previous day’s AQI of 443, in ’severe’ category — the first instance of the air turning toxic this winter season. Experts attributed Friday’s improved AQI to prevailing north-westerly winds, which are transporting Gurugram’s pollution load eastward, into Delhi and beyond towards Uttar Pradesh.

As a result, Gurugram was the only major NCR city on Friday to have ‘very poor’ air, while Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and even Faridabad continued to have ‘severe’ air quality, recording AQIs above 400. A marginal improvement is expected across these cities in the next 24 hours, due to increased wind speed across Delhi-NCR, a forecast by CPCB’s central control room for air quality management showed.

“With winds originating from the north and west of Delhi and blowing east, some of the pollutants which accumulated in and around Gurugram on Thursday dispersed> The wind speed which increased and touched around 12kmph on Friday afternoon also helped,” said Sachin Panwar, a city-based air quality scientist, who said that Gurugram’s air quality may remain in the upper end of the ‘very poor’ category on Saturday. “It can also easily slip back into a severe situation if there is a drop in temperature,” Panwar added.

However, officials and experts both said that any further improvement in the region’s air quality is unlikely in the short term, with no major weather systems — in the form of Western Disturbances — expected for at least two weeks. “With the monsoon having departed, anti-cyclonic winds are circulating over north India, creating a high-pressure zone. High pressure zones tend to see stagnant weather and little activity in terms of rain or wind, so the current situation is likely to persist throughout November, as per long-range forecasts,” said Navdeep Dahiya, a Rohtak-based meteorologist.

Dr Sumita Sharma, director of the climate change and earth sciences division at TERI, agreed, adding, “This forecast is not good news. Without any major weather activity, we should ready ourselves for a bad air Diwali. The past few days have also recorded an increase in the count of farm fires west of Delhi, smoke from which is slowly moving eastward. Together, these sources will further aggravate the present situation.”

Of four official monitors in Gurugram, just one continued to record severe quality air even on Friday — the continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations (CAAQMS) in Sector 51. From an AQI of 458 on Thursday, air quality in the vicinity of this monitor (which lies just off the southern peripheral road, near Samaspur village) jumpe to 459 on Friday evening, Meanwhile, the city’s three other monitoring stations all recorded improvements in both overall AQI and particulate matter pollution on Friday.

Officials attributed this to a high prevalence of local emissions sources in and around Sector 51. “Due to availability of open spaces, dumping of waste and open fires are an issue there. There is also a larger presence of road dust in that area. We will try to mitigate these by increasing patrolling, water sprinkling and dust sweeping in the region,” said Kuldeep Singh, regional officer, HSPCB, Gurugram.

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