As compared to the baseline of 2017, in 2021-22, 95 out of 131 cities covered by the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) showed an improvement in air quality, with Varanasi recording the highest 53% decrease in PM 10 concentrations compared to the baseline of 2017.
Varanasi’s annual PM 10 concentration was 244 micrograms per cubic metre in 2017. In 2021-22, it will be 114 micrograms per cubic metre. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the air quality in Delhi has also improved. In 2017, the annual average concentration of PM 10 in Delhi was 241 micrograms per cubic metre. It has dropped by 18.6% to 196 micrograms per cubic metre in 2021-22.
“The good thing is that we are seeing an improvement in air pollution levels in the Indo-Gangetic Plains cities which had very high concentrations of air pollution. Varanasi has mainly focused on dust and waste management in the past two years. Delhi is also improving. Cities in Punjab have improved marginally,” said a Union environment ministry official on the occasion of International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies on Wednesday.
According to the official, 27 NCAP cities, including Chennai, meet the annual PM 10 air quality standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metre.
Officials cautioned that the annual pollution levels in these cities must be monitored for a few years to ensure that the improvements are sustainable.
As per the booklet released by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav on best practices for air pollution control in eight cities, including Bengaluru and Pune, Varanasi has begun door-to-door waste collection in 40 wards. Waste segregation has also been implemented in the city, as has mechanical sweeping on major roads. A waste-to-energy plant with a capacity of 5 tonnes per day has been installed. There were also thirty-one construction and demolition waste collection centres that were fully operational.
According to Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment, NCAP set a national level target of 20-30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024 from the 2017 base year. She emphasised that the CPCB’s performance assessment of NCAP cities for disbursement of performance-linked funds has only taken into account PM10 data, which is primarily related to coarse dust particles. “Because monitoring of PM2.5, the much smaller and more harmful particles, is limited, a uniform assessment of cities based on PM2.5 reduction has not been considered for performance assessment.”
According to Roychowdhury, PM 10 has become the focus of action under NCAP, which is why cities are trying to focus on road dust, sprinkling, and other measures, resulting in a bias in mitigation strategy and diverting attention away from combustion sources. “PM 2.5 must be the primary focus of NCAP.”
The Centre launched NCAP in 2019 with the goal of reducing PM 10 and PM 2.5 pollution by 20 to 30% over 2017 levels by 2024 in cities that have failed to meet air quality standards for five years in a row.
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As pollution levels rise, Delhi’s air quality in moderate category
As pollution levels continued to rise, Delhi’s air quality was rated as moderate on Thursday. This is partly because of dry, northwesterly winds that are moving into the area and are predicted to raise the temperature to 36 degrees Celsius by the weekend.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was 149 at 7am on Thursday compared to 140 at 4pm a day earlier.
On September 19, when the AQI reached 182 (moderate), Delhi experienced haze for the first time this month. From September 22 to 25, a four-day rainstorm controlled the haze. On September 25, when the AQI dropped to 52, Delhi saw its cleanest air day of the year (satisfactory). On Monday, the AQI was 100, and the smog once more enveloped the city (satisfactory). On Tuesday and Wednesday, the moderate category of the AQI was at 108 and 140, respectively.
Union earth sciences ministry’s Air Quality Early Warning System said the AQI will remain in the moderate category until Saturday despite a gradual rise in air pollution levels.
“The air quality is likely to deteriorate but remain in the ‘moderate’ category on September 29 and 30 [Friday and Saturday]. The air quality is likely to deteriorate further and reach the upper end of the ‘moderate’ category on October 1 [Sunday],” said EWS in its forecast.
Thursday is forecast to have a maximum temperature of 35 degrees Celsius and a low temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. On Wednesday, temperatures ranged from a low of 23.6 degrees to a high of 34.2 degrees Celsius.
Due to an increase in moisture, rain is anticipated by October 4.
“We will see a gradual rise in temperatures over the next few days as northwesterly winds are raising the mercury,” said India Meteorological Department scientist R K Jenamani. He added Delhi may have overcast weather during this period. “…but the next spell of rain is only expected around October 4 or 5 when moisture content increases once again.”
Intense rains in Delhi NCR to continue says IMD
Delhi NCR is witnessing intense rainfall for the last two days and it has brought a noticeable change in the temperature. The rains will continue in the coming days as per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), India.
The continuous showers have waterlogged many areas causing traffic jams in Delhi, Gurugram, and Noida regions.
The minimum temperature in Delhi, on Friday is supposed to be 23 degrees and the maximum temperature is predicted to be 28 degrees.
Concerning the waterlogged roads and intense traffic jams, the Gurugram administration issued an advisory asking private and corporate offices to work from home, while schools and colleges remained closed on Friday to avoid the hassle.
There has been a dip of seven degrees in the temperature in the NCR regions, making people feel the chill, especially during the night.
Even the air quality has improved so much in the city, according to the data from the Central Pollution Control Board. The AQI on Friday morning stood at 50, which is considered ‘very good.’
Massive landslide occurs in Achham district of Nepal; 22 killed, 10 injured
Due to a landslide in Nepal’s Achham district, about 450 km (281 miles) west of the capital city of Kathmandu, many homes were destroyed and many people have fallen victim to it as some of them are injured and some have lost their lives. Officials said on Sunday that the rescuers in Nepal battled against the torrential rains and pulled bodies from the wreckage of homes buried because of the landslide, and it has been reported that 22 people have lost their lives while 10 have been injured so far.
According to the official data, at least 70 people have been killed and 13 have gone missing across the country in flash floods and landslides this year alone.
The police, military and volunteers are still looking for the missing people in Achham district. Authorities have recovered the body of a fisherman who was swept away due to the landlide and reached the Kailali district due to the overflowing Geta river.
Yagya Raj Joshi, an official in Kailali, said about 1,500 people displaced because of the floods were sheltered in public buildings.
Local media broadcasted images of swathes of farms inundated by flood waters, a destroyed suspension bridge and villagers wading through chest-deep water.
Light to moderate rain and gusty winds are expected to hit the national capital on Thursday
Delhi has seen a marginal dip in the temperature on Thursday morning as the national capital has witnessed light to moderate rain and gusty winds with a speed of 30–40 km/h. This even resulted in an improvement in air quality, which was classified as satisfactory.
The maximum temperature is expected to be around 30°C while the minimum is to be 25°C, which when compared to Wednesday was 33.6°C and 26.4°C respectively.
RK Jenamani, India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist, said a depression that formed over Odisha and moved towards northwest India sent easterly winds with moisture towards Delhi-NCR and led to a three-day spell of rain. He said, “As this depression has moved closer, we are seeing the effect of these strong easterly winds, which has led to an increase in the speed of surface winds locally. The moisture is also leading to cloudy skies, which has led to a drop in the mercury. “
The intensity of rain will reduce from Friday evening, with no rain expected from September 17 to 20.
An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was at 63 on Thursday morning at 7 a.m.
The monitoring agency, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, said on Wednesday that the satisfactory level of AQI is expected to last till Saturday. They said, “For the next three days, peak wind speed is likely to be around 14–29 km/h, causing moderate dispersion and AQI is likely to be within the range of’satisfactory’ due to expected light/trace rain spells.”
IMD predicts heavy rainfall in isolated locations
In its most recent weather update, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in isolated locations across Uttarakhand, east Rajasthan, West Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, central Maharashtra, Konkan, and Goa on Wednesday.
The weather service also forecasted isolated heavy rains, thunderstorms, and lightning in Gangetic West Bengal and Odisha on Wednesday, Jharkhand on September 18, and Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim on September 15 and 16.
East Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of central Maharashtra, and Konkan, as well as Goa, may see rain over the next five days.
On September 14 and 15, the Met Department warned of isolated very heavy rainfall over West Madhya Pradesh, ghat areas of Madhya Maharashtra and Gujarat, and Konkan and Goa from September 14 to 16. According to the IMD, isolated extremely heavy rainfall is expected over ghat areas of central Maharashtra on September 15.
UN Secretary pays a visit to the flood areas of Pakistan
On the final day of a two-day trip to raise awareness of the disaster, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited several flood-ravaged areas in Pakistan.
Floods caused by heavy monsoon rains and glacier melt in the northern mountains have killed over 1,391 people and destroyed homes, roads, railway tracks, bridges, livestock, and crops.
Huge areas of the country have been inundated, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. According to the government, nearly 33 million people’s lives have been disrupted. The damage in Pakistan is estimated to be $30 billion, and both the government and Guterres have blamed the flooding on climate change.
The UN Secretary-General arrived in Sindh province on Saturday before flying over some of the worst-affected areas on his way to Balochistan, another badly affected province.
“It is difficult not to feel deeply moved to hear such detailed descriptions of tragedy,” Guterres said after landing in Sindh, according to a video released by the office of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
“Pakistan needs massive financial support. This is not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of justice.”
Guterres was seated next to Sharif in a video released by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, looking out the window of an aircraft at flood-damaged areas. “Unimaginable,” Guterres said as he looked around at the devastation.
In July and August, Pakistan received 391 mm (15.4 inches) of rain, nearly 190% more than the 30-year average. The southern province of Sindh has received 466% more rain than usual.
Guterres stated on Saturday that the world needs to understand the impact of climate change on low-income countries.
“Humanity has been waging war on nature and nature strikes back,” he said.
“Nature strikes back in Sindh, but it was not Sindh that has made the emissions of greenhouse gases that have accelerated climate change so dramatically,” Guterres said. “There is a very unfair situation relative to the level of destruction.”
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