Patiala, November 11
After almost a month, residents, especially villagers, inhaling poor quality air got respite from smog and toxic air following rain on Friday that ensured that the air quality index (AQI) was back to the satisfactory level. A day ahead of Diwali, Punjab’s average AQI dropped from 273 to 66 within 24 hours following high-velocity wind, only 104 farm fires and rain showers.
Punjab cities breathed easy with the air quality index improving considerably before the “Diwali crackers will again add to the air quality”. As against the average AQI of 273 recorded in the six cities on Friday, the air quality on Saturday evening was around 67. Bathinda residents got the biggest respite as the AQI was 76 as compared to 380 a day before.
Similarly, cities of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana witnessed a blue sky, lots of sunlight and much better air quality with an AQI reading of 104, 51 and 49 as compared to 212, 221 and 267, respectively, recorded a day prior. The second most polluted city of Patiala recorded an AQI of 72 as compared to the 306 recorded on Friday and Khanna was down to 49 from the previous 256.
An AQI between zero 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. Each year air quality in the state deteriorates after paddy is harvested. While there is no mechanism to get real-time data in rural areas where a majority of the stubble is burnt, villagers are left gasping for breath. “The relief is due to the better wind speed which helped the pollutants scatter and the rain helped settle down the dust and other particles. Punjab saw better sunshine today and also a drop in temperature which will help check dengue,” said health officials.
“Further, if the wind speed is better on Sunday evening, Diwali crackers will not make much of an impact, though coupled with farm fires, the air quality might deteriorate”, they added.
As per the data collected from the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), Punjab saw 104 farm fires on Saturday, with the Chief Minister’s home district topping with 43 of them. Mansa and Fazilka witnessed 22 and 13 farm fires, respectively. The past two days has seen around 110 farm fires and if the pattern continues for another two days, the state will get huge relief from the poor quality air. “However the next whole week is crucial in terms of farm fires as another spurt is expected, given the short duration with farmers preparing the field for sowing wheat”, they said.
Will cracker ban work?
Every Diwali, the two-hour window rule for bursting crackers goes up in smoke as residents do not follow it. Even the police are reluctant to act tough, given the festival spirit. Last year, too, the cracker ban went for a toss with residents bursting crackers till the wee hours.
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