Delhi’s air quality is likely to slip into the “poor” category by Wednesday, SAFAR said.
Dust from arid regions in the southwest has started affecting Delhi. Farm fires have begun in Amritsar, Punjab, and neighbouring border regions and are likely to influence the city’s air quality, it said.
The farm fire count on Friday was around 40, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).
“Deterioration in air quality index (AQI) is expected on Saturday. Further deterioration — from the higher end of the moderate category to poor category — is expected on September 27 and September 28,” it said.
On Friday, Delhi recorded an AQI of 134, which falls in the moderate category.
An AQI between 0 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”.
Pawan Gupta, a senior scientist at Universities Space Research Association, NASA, said the forecast shows high PM2.5 levels across the Indo-Gangetic plains over the next 2-3 days.
“It appears a combination of smoke, dust and weather playing a role,” he posted on Twitter.
The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control Authority) had written to Punjab and Haryana, asking them to “urgently” implement measures to reduce stubble burning — one of the major reasons behind high levels of air pollution in Delhi during winter.
“It has been brought to our notice that early burning of crop residue is taking place in Punjab… We recognise that we have lost time because of COVID-19, but given that the winter season is now approaching, we need to tackle this with urgency and ensure compliance,” EPCA head Bhure Lal had told the two agrarian states.
Chief Secretary of Punjab, Vini Mahajan, in a letter to the EPCA chief on Friday said the administration took serious note of early incidents of crop residue burning, and the deputy commissioners concerned were asked to send a report after field verification.
Sub-divisional magistrates in Amritsar, where maximum fire incidents have occurred, have been directed to collect environmental compensation through challans, she said.
Revenue officials have also been directed to make entries in revenue record of non-conforming farmers.
The administration has been focusing on the hotspot villages, where maximum farm fire incidents took place last year, the senior official said.
The Tarn Taran administration has also issued challan to the defaulting farmer.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, stubble burning contributed significantly to air pollution in Delhi last year with the share of farm fire smoke in particulate matter peaking to 44 per cent in November.