The air quality in Delhi is anticipated to deteriorate in the upcoming days due to an increase in the number of farm fires in neighboring states, according to officials. Punjab recently recorded over 100 farm fires in a single day for the first time this season, while Haryana has reported a total of 120 farm fires thus far. These fires significantly contribute to Delhi’s annual pollution issues, as northwesterly winds transport the smoke over considerable distances.

Last year, Punjab witnessed a total of 49,922 fires, while Haryana reported 3,661 fires. Both states have committed to reducing stubble burning this year.

These two states are chiefly responsible for Delhi’s annual pollution problems during the winter season, as northwesterly winds exacerbate the issue by carrying smoke over long distances, leading to dangerously high levels of PM2.5 in the capital.

On Monday, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) announced plans to release daily stubble data starting from October 10, providing an estimate of farm fire contributions to Delhi’s air quality. Gufran Beig, founder project director at SAFAR, explained that while the current contribution to Delhi’s air quality is minimal, it will increase as the daily farm fire count rises in the coming days.

In northern India’s agricultural states, farmers traditionally set fire to paddy stalks around October to clear their fields for the next crop. This practice releases smoke, carbon dioxide, and toxins, resulting in severe air pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).

Delhi’s 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) was recorded as moderate on Monday, and forecasts indicate that it is expected to remain in the moderate range below 200 until October 11.

As part of preparations for the pollution season, the Delhi government has unveiled a 15-point action plan, which includes a ban on the use of firecrackers in surrounding states and measures to address stubble burning and reduce reliance on diesel generators during power cuts. The Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) will also be implemented in phases if the AQI crosses the 201 threshold.

It’s worth noting that an AQI between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 is satisfactory, 101 to 200 is moderate, 201 to 300 is poor, 301 to 400 is very poor, and 401 to 500 is severe.

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