Delhi Decoded: Is stubble burning the main cause for Delhi’s pollution?

  • Delhi sees a spike in pollution levels in the winter months which government officials believe is due to the fumes from stubble burning in the neighbouring states

Pretika Khanna
First Published16 Oct 2020
The recent spike in Delhi pollution, caused due to crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, has become a political flashpoint between the AAP, BJP and the Congress. Photo: Reuters
The recent spike in Delhi pollution, caused due to crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, has become a political flashpoint between the AAP, BJP and the Congress. Photo: Reuters

With winter setting in, air pollution levels in Delhi are on a constant rise. The Centre and the state government have announced steps to improve the air quality which is already “very poor”. Blame game has begun between Delhi and neighbouring states to control the pollution caused by stubble burning.

Siddharth Singh, an energy and climate policy researcher who is also the author of The Great Smog of India said that while stubble burning accounts for 50% of the pollution in winter months, on a regular basis majority of the pollution in Delhi is from internal sources.

In podcast Singh said that five sectors including transport, cooking and residential sector, industry and services, dust both from fields around Delhi but also through construction activity and biomass burning which includes stubble burning are part of the sources.

“It is not just that all of this is happening within Delhi. Depending on the time of the year but around 30-40% of Delhi’s air pollutants can be sourced from outside. If about 60% of the pollutants come from Delhi itself it means that Delhi can do something to reduce pollution levels with its borders,” he said.

He said that while something needs to be done to control stubble burning in the winter months, steps need to be taken in the rest of the year to control pollution from other sources.

“At the peak, which is going to happen from the end of October or beginning of November, at that time almost 50% of Delhi’s air pollutants is sourced through stubble burning alone. This may average out through the year. It’s not Delhi’s problem alone. It is not just a city problem but also a rural problem. It is a multi-faceted problem and to deal with it all five sectors have to be dealt with,” he added.

Delhi sees a spike in pollution levels in the winter months which government officials believe is due to the fumes from stubble burning in the neighbouring states. With covid-19 affecting lungs, officials are worried about the effect of pollution on lungs as well. In the past, schemes including the car rationing scheme – odd even have had to be implemented to control vehicular pollution.

Delhi Decoded is a weekly podcast. You can listen to all the episodes here.

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