Pollution may go up with dip in mercury

January 02, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 22, 2016 09:15 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The Capital’s experiment with the odd-even rationing scheme for private cars will begin at a time when air quality has been relatively better as compared to previous years, mostly because of the unusually warm weather.

But from Saturday to January 5, the levels of particulate matter are expected to rise with the mercury dipping, making it difficult for pollutants to disperse.

The Delhi government’s ambitious plan to cut the number of private cars on the roads by half will start from 8 a.m. on Friday, when air quality is expected to be poor. According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) air quality index, the level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) will be nearly three times the standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metre at 170 – putting it in the “very poor” category.

The level of coarse particulate matter (PM10) is forecast to be 305 micrograms per cubic metre, which is over three times the standard of 100. However, the first day of 2016 will be slightly better as compared to last year, when the PM2.5 level was 200 micrograms per cubic metre.

“Delhi has seen relatively warmer weather for this time of the season as both minimum and maximum temperatures are above normal. This kept the pollution less,” said Dr. Gufran Beig, project director of SAFAR. However, Dr. Beig said that levels of PM2.5 will gradually rise in the coming days due to lower temperatures and lighter winds of 8 to 10 km/hr. From 170 micrograms per cubic metre on Friday, the level of PM2.5 is expected to rise to 201 on January 3.

Dr. Beig clarified that the forecast does not take into account any possible decrease in emissions during the odd-even experiment.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, have cautioned that the odd-even plan would not be enough to bring down pollution.

Sunil Dahiya, a campaigner with Greenpeace, said that the experiment would be a good beginning, but there was a need to expand the scope of anti-pollution measures.

“It is a good step, but the odd-even policy alone will not have a drastic impact on Delhi’s air quality. The government has started with the transport sector, but other sectors need to be addressed as well,” said Mr. Dahiya.

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