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Improvement In Delhi’s Air Quality Since 2015-17 Halted In 2023: CSE Report

Delhi had been experiencing a consistent decline in its annual PM2.5 levels since 2015-17, with 2020 being the only outlier due to pandemic lockdowns

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Improvement In Delhi's Air Quality Since 2015-17 Halted In 2023: CSE Report
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in its analysis said that while summers are becoming cleaner, winters are becoming more polluted

New Delhi: Delhi-NCR recorded the longest spell of ‘very poor’ or worse air quality and the maximum number of smog episodes in November and December 2023 in the last six years, according to a new analysis. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an independent think-tank that analysed pollution data for Delhi-NCR, said the gradual long-term improvement in annual PM2.5 levels since 2015-17 halted in 2023.

This occurred despite cleaner-than-usual summer and monsoon seasons and significantly reduced intrusion of smoke from farm fires in northern states. However, this winter witnessed unusually low surface wind speeds, trapping high levels of local pollution.

Due to the impact of unusual winter levels, the overall annual levels have plateaued and worsened, reversing the gains of the long-term downward trend, the CSE said.

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Despite a decrease in stubble burning contributing to Delhi’s pollution this year, coupled with increased rainfall in November and milder winter conditions, the annual level should have improved. Instead, adverse meteorological conditions, specifically lower wind speeds, exacerbated the situation due to persistently high local pollution, it added.

Delhi had been experiencing a consistent decline in its annual PM2.5 levels since 2015-17, with 2020 being the only outlier due to pandemic lockdowns.

However, this downward trend halted in 2023. Delhi’s PM2.5 annual average for 2023 (as of December 29) stood at 100.9 micrograms per cubic metre, marking a 2 per cent increase against 2022 and 6 per cent higher than the remarkably clean 2020.

The average annual PM2.5 concentrations were 115.8 microgrammes per cubic metre in 2018, 109.2 in 2019, 95.1 in 2020, 106.2 in 2021, 98.6 in 2022, and 100.9 in 2023, according to the data.

Also Read: Increase In Respiratory Illness Cases With Rise In Air Pollution: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya

The analysis revealed that while summers are becoming cleaner, winters are becoming more polluted.

In 2023, the summer months (March to June) were significantly less polluted (14-36 per cent) than in 2022. Conversely, the winter months of January, November and December were much more polluted in 2023 (12-34 per cent) compared to the same months in 2022, the CSE said.

It said the maximum number of smog episodes occurred in November-December 2023, surpassing the last six years’ corresponding periods.

A smog episode is defined as at least three or more consecutive days with air quality in the ‘severe’ category. The CSE said,

Delhi typically experiences two smog episodes in November and December. In 2023, by December 24, there were three episodes, and on December 30, Delhi was witnessing its third continuous day of ‘severe’ air quality, marking the city’s fourth smog episode.

It said,

Overall, November-December 2023 seems to have had the most consistently poor air compared to the last six winters, with minimal fluctuations in daily PM2.5 levels. The data indicates it was the longest spell of ‘very poor’ or worse air in the last six years.

Also Read: Artificial Rain As Panacea For Pollution Crisis? Not Long-term, Too Expensive, Say Experts

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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