Noida/Ghaziabad: The pollution levels have gone beyond proportional limits in Noida and Ghaziabad even before Diwali, an indication that it could reach "scary" heights once the festival gets over. Officials of UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) blame the poor air quality in NCR and the smoke reaching the region from raging farm fires in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan for the high pollution levels.

Satellite data accessed through VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) on October 21 show numerous farm fires raging in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Satellite data show 1,487 farm fires raging in Punjab, 215 in Haryana and 19 in Rajasthan. And, according to the pollution control board, dust from construction sites and traffic as well as from vehicular emissions have contributed to harmful pollutants in the air in Ghaziabad and Noida.

"A continuous breeze in the direction of Delhi and the NCR has enabled the smoke to travel eastwards from the sources of origin. Due to cold weather, pollutants are not getting dispersed quickly in the air. Low visibility owing to the pollutants is expected in the next few days. It could also lead to breathing difficulties," Paras Nath, UPPCB's regional officer in Ghaziabad, told TOI on Thursday.

A pre-Diwali analysis of air quality levels in Ghaziabad and Noida has shown startling levels of PM 10 — suspended particulate matter with sizes less than 10 micrometres — in both Noida and Ghaziabad.

Amid concerns over Delhi's growing pollution levels, neighbouring Noida too is keeping a close watch on the city's air quality. "An overall estimate of air quality levels is being determined by collecting samples from different locations in Noida and at different times by two of our monitoring machines," said Deepa Arora, assistant scientific officer at the regional office of UPPCB.

"We collect air samples for verification of the content of oxides of nitrogen (NO2) and sulphur oxide (SO2). Besides, the samples are also used to determine the content of suspended particulate matters in air at various locations," she said.

"Samples are collected from Sector 1 and from Sector 6 on a normal day, which is nearly five days before Diwali and on Diwali day. Last year, we recorded levels of SO2 at 14, NO2 at 26 and PM10 at 168 on November 5, while Diwali day had SO2 at 18, NO2 at 38 and PM10 at 361.7. This year, we have recorded the levels of SO2 at 6, NO2 at 27 and PM10 at 169 on October 24. We are yet to record the date on Diwali day," the official added.

Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist working with the Greater Noida-based Social Action for Forest and Environment, said, "The rise in pollution levels after Diwali has been going up three-to-four times the normal level. But it's alarming to see the rise even before Diwali."

At this rate, Tongad said people need to be prepared as the levels could touch "scary" heights when the festival gets over.

"People need to make an extra effort towards reducing pollution and refrain from open burning of waste. This continues despite NGT directions and in the long run could be disastrous for our future generations," he added.

Source: October 28, 2016, The Times of India