" --IANS"
New Delhi, Nov 19 - Even as the air quality in the National Capital Region, including Delhi, recorded an improvement, increased stubble burning in the western Punjab districts despite the National Green Tribunal directions continues to pose a threat.

With good wind speed and a drop in temperature, air quality in Delhi and surrounding areas was recorded between poor and very poor during different times on Sunday.

Satellite images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Sunday showed increased stubble-burning in Punjab's Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Firozpur, Fazilka, Muktsar, Bathinda, Moga and Kapurthala districts in the past two days.

Farmers in these districts are burning stubble now since crop residue could not be burnt earlier on due to moisture, and due to the fact that it's almost time to prepare the fields for the winter crops, Bharatiya Kisan Union's Punjab unit member Omkar Singh said.

With Delhi set to receive north-westerly winds (coming from Punjab and Haryana) over the next few days, the air quality in the national capital may see a slight deterioration.

However, according to the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), good wind speed will help air quality from deteriorating any further.

As per an advisory from the weather officials and SAFAR, winds will catch speed and thus pollutants will not have much effect. The pollution levels are supposed to drop from very-poor to poor, Polash Mukherjee, a researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment, and member of the EPCA, told IANS.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, average Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi-NCR at 5 p.m. on Sunday was 292 compared with 298 on Saturday, both considered poor.

The major pollutant, PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, was recorded above 290 units -- about 11 times the safe limit.

However, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), seven out of 10 monitoring stations across Delhi-NCR saw PM2.5 value above the danger level of over 300 units.

SAFAR rated Delhi-NCR's air-quality as very poor, with areas like Dhirpur, Pitampura and Delhi University in north Delhi, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Mathura Road, and Ayanagar in south Delhi, and Gurugram placed in the very poor category based on their respective air quality and PM2.5 levels.

While the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted no rains over the next few says, weather analysts said they were expecting that the good wind speed alone will dissipate the additional pollutants entering the national capital and surrounding areas from Punjab.

Today the wind speed was around 20 kmph, which is considered good. The north-westerly winds will continue for the next three days -- speed is expected to vary between 10 and 15 kmph, which will help in dispersing the pollutants here, Mahesh Palawat, Director of private weather forecasting agency Skymet, said.

--IANS

kd/tsb/bg


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