Don’t Mislead on Sources of Delhi’s Pollution Levels, Arvind Kejriwal Tells Monitoring Agencies


New Delhi: Winter is still weeks away but the air in Delhi has already turned a familiar murky. As the city braces for its annual battle with alarming levels of smog, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday rubbished reports from various monitoring agencies that indicate burning of stubble, or agricultural waste, in neighbouring states is responsible for just 10 per cent of the air pollution in the capital.

“What is the basis for saying that? On what basis are such claims being made?” he asked while speaking to the media. “There is only one way of determining this:real-time source apportionment of pollution. There are machines which do this. We are trying to import these.”

Kejriwal appeared to be hitting out at union ministry of earth sciences’ air quality and weather forecast service, SAFAR, which said in a recent report that the share of stubble burning in the concentration of tiny PM2.5 particles in Delhi’s air has remained less than 10 per cent so far.

“If air samples are taken on a real-time basis and found out what are the sources for the pollution – to what extent is, say, transport responsible, to what extent are other factors responsible – only if one has the particular machine can one determine the percentage of pollution to each and multiple sources,” the chief minister said.

The Air Quality Index at Dwarka in the capital was 209 around 4pm today. An AQI between 0 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’. The levels had shot up over 300 in several parts of the capital and adjoining areas on Tuesday.

Without the technology for source apportionment of pollution, all the data to the effect is “misleading”, said Kejriwal. “If they are saying (stubble burning) is responsible for just 1%, let them tell us the multiple sources for the rest 99% of pollution. If they are saying 10% (due to stubble burning), let them also tell us what is responsible for the rest 90%,” he added.

Several north Indian cities, including Delhi, top a list of places with the worst air, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO database of over 2,600 cities shows that 9 of the 10 most polluted cities on the planet are in northern India, based on the amount of particulate matter under 2.5 micrograms in size found in every cubic metre of air.

“If you go back to February-March, pollution was OK. It was in ‘good’ or ‘moderate’ category for the past six to eight months. Delhi has not witnessed any extra traffic in the past seven days, no new sources of dust have been created in Delhi ... so I feel whichever agency is giving out such data, this is a very sensitive matter, and it should do so with responsibility,” said the CM, adding, “Hawa mein tukke chal rahein hain; yeh sahi nahi hai (They are just assuming things; this is not right).”

The chief minister said until a solution is found for the pollution that comes from “outside”, Delhi will continue to suffer in the months of October and November.

Just yesterday, Delhi environment minister Kailash Gahlot wrote to union minister of earth sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan, requesting him to share the technology that can apportion the level of PM2.5 due to stubble burning as well as share real-time data on the multiple sources of pollution, for correct decision-making.