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Tiding Air Quality of Delhi


Every year, Delhi and parts of the surrounding states, including Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, face a critical point in their annual air quality. This is the period when the southwest monsoon retreats, taking with it the atmospheric drafts that typically help disperse pollutants resulting from various human activities like construction, transportation, power generation, and the burning of agricultural residue.


GS3- Pollution

Mains Question:

While there is greater awareness and action to curb the sources of pollution in Delhi and surrounding areas, November, which has in recent years emerged as the critical month for pollution, remains to be tamed. Analyse. (15 marks, 250 words).

Steps taken to study this crisis:

  • Over the years, multiple studies have been conducted, and executive actions have been initiated to study, acknowledge, and mitigate this crisis.
  • The scientific understanding of the relative contributions of different pollutants and the limitations of corrective measures in the face of adverse meteorological conditions and disruptions to economic activities is quite clear. Consequently, the air pollution crisis has now reached a state of deadlock.

Data pertaining to the air pollution in Delhi:

  • The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), responsible for addressing the causes of air pollution in Delhi and neighboring states, comprises experts, but its authority is restricted to suggesting and recommending measures based on the severity of the air quality deterioration.
  • Although the CAQM noted, as recently as October 31, that the daily average air quality in Delhi from January to October of this year was the best in the last six years, it overlooks the fact that the number of days in November when air quality reaches the ‘severe’ category (over 450 AQI) has remained roughly the same.
  • In 2022, the AQI entered the severe category for three days in the first half of November, which matches the figures for 2021, 2020, and 2019.

Way Forward:

  • Despite increased awareness and action to control pollution sources, November, which has become a critical month for pollution in recent years, remains a challenge.
  • Although incidents of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh have been about half as frequent as in previous years, it is expected that more such incidents will occur in the weeks ahead.
  • While earlier measures have established a structured response to combat air pollution, it is now necessary to adopt a more comprehensive approach to address the challenges of November.
  • Beyond tackling stubble burning, this involves addressing the more formidable issues of vehicular pollution and construction dust.


While in the past, urban Delhi could have attributed its pollution crisis to distant farm fires, addressing November’s pollution challenges may require more stringent measures and greater inconveniences. Bodies like the CAQM need to assert their independence and ensure better coordination and compliance within Delhi and the surrounding states to address this challenge effectively.


June 2024