North battles life-threatening smog, misery to continue for 10-15 days

NEW DELHI: While parts of North India battle the life-threatening smog, there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that apart from big cities, what the northern plains (including Punjab and Haryana) are witnessing is not smog but fog.

North battles life-threatening smog, misery to continue for 10-15 days

A man drives a tractor amid heavy smog and fog conditions on the outskirts of Amritsar on November 8. AFP

gspannu7@gmail.com

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 8

While parts of North India battle the life-threatening smog, there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that apart from big cities, what the northern plains (including Punjab and Haryana) are witnessing is not smog but fog.

And the bad news is that the weather situation in these cities (and that includes the National Capital Region Delhi and Chandigarh) is not going to get better anytime soon. In other words, people in these cities are in for a longer haul, at least the next 10 to 15 days, says meteorologist Mahesh Palwat of private forecaster Skymet.

Palwat says the winds that could have scattered the thick pollutants causing this deadly smog will not pick up speed, at least till Friday. But even after Friday the change will be just about minimal.  

“The situation will continue for the next 10 to 15 days. It will gradually improve but not drastically,” he adds.

What is making the situation worse is the absence of a plausible Western Disturbance for at least next 10 to 15 days. The rains that could have settled the toxic pollutants are nowhere on the horizon in this period.

The “very light and calm winds during the entire night and till forenoon” are not helping the situation. And till the time some dry winds, measuring at least 25 to 30 km/ph sweep the region, the smog will continue to prevail.

While fog is a natural phenomenon in the season (all the build-up needs is low temperature, low winds, some particulate matter in the air and moisture), toxic pollutants in big cities are compounding the problem.

“Fog was already present in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Pakistan. Winds from northwest dragged it to Delhi and other cities laden with pollutants. And stubble burning (in Punjab, Haryana and western UP) added (to it),” he says

Significantly, as per Palawat, stubble burning is responsible for only 20 per cent of the problem.

“A huge 80 percent of the smog is due to local pollution like vehicular, industrial, construction, garbage burning activities. This is the case in industrial and big cities, like Delhi and to an extent also Chandigarh.  What other parts of the north are experiencing is fog, for which there is no need to get worried, at least health-wise,” he says

Of course, fog also has its side effects like hampering the visibility but that is a separate issue.

Like smog, fog is also due to particular suspension but there is a difference—it is not as toxic or as dilapidating.

Smog may have in it dangerous nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, smoke or particulates. Its less visible constituents could be carbon monoxide, CFCs and at time also radioactive sources.

Smog increases the holding power of toxics due to which they remain suspended in the air, in the 200 to 300 feet band near the ground, longer. In absence of winds or rains, these pollutants neither settle on the ground nor do they dispel in higher layers.

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