Thanks to Diwali crackers, farm fires, Punjab wakes up to ‘poor’ air quality

In the past five years, the lowest AQI was recorded in 2018 at 234 (poor) while it was 328 in 2017, 293 in 2019 and 328 in 2020.

Punjab’s Air Quality Index (AQI) during Diwali night (November 4) slipped in the ‘poor’ category at 268 this year as compared to ‘very poor’ during the Diwali nights in 2020 and 2019. Bad air quality was reported across several cities thanks to bursting of crackers and farm fires, which touched single-day high on November 5.

The data for November 5, which included farm fires lit on Thursday evening, Diwali night and Friday till around 4 pm, showed 5,327 stubble burning incidents across the state. On November 4, the state had recorded 3,032 farm fires.

Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), Ludhiana, under the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), said that with maximum numbers of ‘field fires’ at 5,327, which is highest on a single day in this season, accounts for 18.50 per cent of the total 28,792 stubble fires till date since the beginning of stubble burning in 2021 paddy season.

The result was that Jalandhar topped the chart in bad quality air on Diwali night among all the major cities of the state this year.

In 8 major cities of the state, the day time AQI on Diwali day – before bursting of crackers started on Thursday – was ‘satisfactory to moderate’ barring Amritsar where it was in the ‘poor’ category.

But after a few hours on Diwali night, Punjab’s two major cities — Jalandhar and Amritsar — fell under ‘very poor’ category and other four major cities — Ludhiana, Patiala, Khanna, and Mandi Gobindgarh — fell under the ‘poor’ category.

Jalandhar’s average AQI at 6 am on Friday stood at 327 followed by Amritsar, Ludhiana, and Patiala (all in ‘poor’ category) with AQI of 303, 289 and 241, respectively. The AQI of Khanna and Mandi Gobindgarh was 227 and 220, respectively.

The maximum percentage of AQI reduction (when compared to last year) was observed in Patiala (27.8 per cent) and minimum was observed in Jalandhar (0.3 per cent) while this year the minimum AQI was recorded in Mandi Gobindgarh with AQI of 220 (poor) against the last year’s value of 262.

This year, according to data provided by Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), the average AQI of the state was recorded at 268 at 6 am Friday morning on the basis of Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station (CAAQMS) installed at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Khanna, Mandi Gobindgarh and Patiala.

At 4 PM on Friday, as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the AQI of Mandi Gobindgarh, Ludhiana and Patiala deteriorated to 243, 288 and 292, respectively because people were bursting crackers during the day also.

In the past five years, the lowest AQI was recorded in 2018 at 234 (poor) while it was 328 in 2017, 293 in 2019 and 328 in 2020.

The presence of particulate matter per cubic meter in the air leads to categorized various quality zones. As various quality zones are categorized like 0-50 (good), 51-100 satisfactory, 101 to 200 moderate, 201 to 300 poor, 301 to 400 is very poor and 401 to 500 severe.

“Punjab saw an average AQI reduction of 18.3 per cent from last year. The people of the state of Punjab followed the advisory issued with respect to time for bursting of fire crackers and using the green crackers for celebrations,” said Krunesh Garg, Member Secretary, the PPCB.

Though bursting of crackers was allowed between 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali night but the crackers were fired till midnight and even during the day on Friday.

PPCB sources informed that there has been a rampant increase in the field fires as farmers that authorities might take these fires as result of crackers.

PPCB officials said that last night was worst for stubble burning this year.

Till date, Punjab has recorded 28,792 field fires out of which nearly 54 per cent fires have been reported from November 1 to November 5.

On Diwali night and following day the maximum fires were reported from Sangrur which were 611 followed by 484 fires in Moga , 481 and 455 at Ferozepur and Ludhiana, respectively.

Barnala also reported 407 stubble fires while Mukatsar and Patiala reported 360 and 355 fires in single day.

Meanwhile, Tarn Taran still topped the chart with maximum 3,078 fires in this season till date followed by Ferozepur (2,773), Sangrur (2,272), Ludhiana (2,062) and Patiala (2,026).

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