In the 2021-22 winters, the national capital reported two ‘good’ air days— for the first time in the last four years— a new analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says, adding that the number of days with ‘poor’ or ‘severe’ air quality also increased compared to the previous year.
This winter, the city had 14 days with ‘severe’ air quality— up from nine days in the last winter (2020-21). Similarly, up from 18 days with ‘poor’ air days, this winter Delhi had 20 such days, the report said. It added that this winter, 25 days had the city-wide average in ‘severe’ or ‘worse’ category in the Air Quality Index (AQI) — up from 23 such days in the previous winter and at par with 25 days in the winter of 2019-20.
“The city also saw two days of ‘good’ air and seven days of ‘satisfactory’ air this winter, which is an improvement from the last winter season when no such low-pollution days were recorded. This high variability in air quality this winter can be attributed to increased number of heavy rainfall days and colder-than-usual weather,” the report, released last week, added.
The study warned that the winter season had left alarm bells clanging. While there was a minor drop in the seasonal level compared to previous winters, it was still extremely high, and far from meeting the safety standards, said the report.
“CSE researchers warn that if not acted upon immediately, this trend can worsen in the coming years, negating the downward dip of the pandemic years,” it said.
It further warned that the analysis of the real-time data from monitoring stations in Delhi-NCR for the entire winter period showed that despite heavy and prolonged rains in different phases this winter, long smog episodes and elevated levels prevailed.
“Region recorded a few days of satisfactory air quality in January which has not happened in the previous three seasons. This was due to unprecedented heavy rainfall and lockdown imposed on the city due to the Omicron wave of pandemic in January,” said the report.
According to the analysis, the elevated pollution levels and smog episodes are evidence of the systemic pollution that has continued in the region due to inadequate infrastructure and systems for pollution control in all sectors.
“This can be tamed only if round-the-year action becomes more stringent and uniform across sectors and the region. Action has to be performance based to meet the clean air standards,” the report said.
Further, this winter season was better when compared to the last as it saw fewer ‘severe-plus’ and ‘very poor’ air days. From 14 ‘severe-plus’ air days in 2020-21, the current season saw just 11 such days. Similarly, this winter saw 72 days with ‘poor’ air quality, much lower than 87 days in 2020-21.