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Wednesday,26-January-2022

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Schools in Delhi shut down till further orders due to pollution

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Due to ‘very poor’ air quality, all schools in Delhi will remain closed from December 3 onwards till further order, Environment Minister Gopal Rai said on Thursday.

Earlier on November 13, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced to shut down physical classes in schools for a week, adding that education will continue in virtual mode. After a gap of almost two weeks, all schools in the national capital were reopening on November 29.

This move of the Delhi government came after the Supreme Court of India gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Centre, Delhi and its neighbouring states to act against rising air pollution. Despite the ban, CBSE exams would go ahead with necessary precautions and safety measures.

The state government took a similar decision on Monday when it announced a blanket ban on all the construction and demolition (C&D) activities in the city until further orders. Besides, the entry of non-CNG and non-electric trucks from outside of Delhi was also prohibited on the same date till December 7 to reduce vehicular emission.

While stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab is reported to be a major source of pollution in the capital, dust from the construction and demolition activities, vehicular emission and pollution from open burning contribute as the city’s own source of pollution.

On Thursday, Delhi’s overall AQI at 9.30 a.m. stood at 382 with the level of PM2.5 and PM10 standing at 227 and 401, respectively, as per System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).

According to the Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi, the air quality is likely to remain in the ‘Very Poor’ category on December 3 and December 4. “Winds are likely to remain slow/calm during December 3 to 5 which are unfavourable for dispersion of pollutants. The Outlook for subsequent five days: The air quality is likely to remain in Very Poor category with PM2.5 to be the predominant pollutant,” It added.

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Tale of Mumbai’s rising trend of air pollution

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Every winter, smog-filled days and nights across entire north India are a common thing and by contrast, the western region looks much cleaner.

However, a new analysis of regional air pollution levels by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has shown that proximity to the sea has not helped in containing the increasing air pollution in the financial capital, Mumbai.

Even though winter pollution levels in the western region are not as high as that seen in the Indo-Gangetic Plains due to its proximity to the sea and improved ventilation, the levels have been seen to be increasing despite the geographical advantages and favourable meteorology, the CSE analysis said.

In other words, increasing air pollution is not restricted to winters but is now an yearlong problem in Mumbai too.

“The number of bad-air days in Mumbai have doubled between 2019 and 2021, while good days are down by 20 per cent. This underscores the urgency of scaling up action across all sectors to prevent further worsening and to arrest the trend in this region,” executive director, research and advocacy, CSE, Anumita Roychowdhury said.

This new analysis, released on Wednesday, of real time pollution data is part of CSE’s air quality tracker initiative and also has an assessment of annual and seasonal trends in PM2.5 concentration for the period January 1, 2019, to January 9, 2022.

This analysis is based on the real time data available from the current working air quality monitoring stations. Review of data availability from the automated monitoring stations in the region under the continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations (CAAQMS) programme of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows major data gaps. When it comes to data availability calculated as number of days with adequate PM2.5 data for computation of a valid 24-hour average, among Mumbai stations, Kurla in east-central Mumbai had only 55 per cent data while Malady (West) in north Mumbai came up with 68 per cent.

“It is not clear why these stations have such poor data availability despite minimal problems of electricity and internet connectivity in the region,” said CSE’s programme manager, Urban Data Analytics Lab, Avikal Somvanshi.

Like other cities in Maharashtra and Gujarat, studied as part of the same analysis by CSE, Mumbai too has indicated a rising trend in annual PM2.5 levels after an initial drop during 2020 (when there were lockdowns) with a rebound and a rising trend visible in 2021.

The CSE analysis to indicate that the number of bad-air quality days are increasing in Mumbai is supported with Air Quality Index (AQI) data. Daily AQI analysis based on 10 oldest stations shows a 20 per cent drop in the number of good AQI days in the city between 2019 and 2021 — while days with poor or very poor AQI have doubled.

South Mumbai has the worst air within the city during winter: In December 2021, the stations in south Mumbai reported significantly higher PM2.5 levels compared to the rest of the city.

Mazgaon with a monthly average of 134 micrograms per cubic metres was the most polluted neighborhood of the city, followed by Navy Nagar, Colaba (124 micrograms per metre cube), Kurla (101 micrograms per metre cube), Vile Parle-West (101 micrograms per metre cube) and Worli (97 micrograms per metre cube).

Khindipada, in north Mumbai, which is at the edge of Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the suburbs with a monthly average of 54 micrograms per metre cube was the least polluted neighborhood. Bandra and Malad (West) reported low numbers, but the values are not considered valid due to a significantly large amount of missing data from these two stations, the CSE analysis showed.

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Mumbai reports 10,661 new Covid-19 cases, 11 deaths

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Continuing the alarming surge in Mumbai, 10,661 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Saturday while 11 patients succumbed to the lethal virus, officials said.On Friday, Maharashtra had reported 43,211 new Covid-19 cases with 11,317 infections being registered in the financial capital.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the Centre should think about enforcing mandatory Covid-19 vaccination to tide over hesitancy among a segment of people.

The state has reported 238 new cases of the omicron variant of coronavirus, raising their overall count to 1,605, a health department official said. Maharashtra’s positivity rate is 21.13 per cent, the official said.

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Unabated cold wave continues in J&K, Ladakh

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Intense cold wave continued in J&K and Ladakh on Saturday as morning fog covered most parts of Jammu city and its adjoining areas.

An official of the Indian Meteorological department (IMD) said cold wave continued in J&K and Ladakh on Saturday as morning fog added to the chilly conditions in Jammu city and its adjoining areas.

Srinagar recorded minus 4.5 degree Celsius, Pahalgam minus 11.4 and Gulmarg minus 9.5 degrees Celsius as the minimum temperature on Saturday.

In the Ladakh region, Drass town registered 27.6, Leh minus 16.3 and Kargil minus 18.6 as the minimum.

Jammu recorded 7.7, Katra 5.0, Batote 1.5, Banihal 0.8 and Bhaderwah minus 2.1 as the night’s lowest temperature.

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