Study co-relates crop burning data with PM2.5 levels to suggest effective ways for pollution abatement

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A new study that juxtaposed satellite data related to crop burning with PM2.5 levels in Delhi-NCR has worked out a correlation between the two and claimed that it will help policymakers undertake location-specific action based on meteorological forecasts.

The study also identified districts from where parali burning has a direct impact on Delhi’s PM2.5 levels.

This, the study has claimed, will help bring down the cost and improve the effectiveness of policy actions to reduce the effect of crop residue burning on the ambient PM2.5 concentration in Delhi during the post-monsoon months.

The study, ‘Potential areas of crop residue burning contributing to hazardous air pollution in Delhi during the post-monsoon season’ by Md Hafizur Rahman, Nimish Singh, Seema Kundu and Arindam Datta was published in the ‘Journal of Environmental Quality’ in January last week.

It rightly takes note of the fact that severe daily ambient particulate matter concentrations (PM2.5) have been recorded in Delhi for about 50 days in the post-monsoon season (October-November) from 2016 to 2019. Monthly average ambient PM2.5 concentrations during the period were found to be September (63.0), October (145.8) and November (233.0).

Pointing out that crop residue burning has been reported as one of the major sources of ambient PM2.5 in Delhi during the period, the study analysed the effect of meteorological parameters and crop residue burning on the ambient PM2.5 concentration in Delhi. The researchers used the dataset from one of the official monitoring stations, the Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory air parcel back trajectory model, and a satellite-based active fire dataset for the years 2016-2019.

The study result suggests that crop residue burning events at Sangrur, Mansa, Bhatinda, Patiala, Ludhiana, Barnala, and Patiala districts contribute to the severe PM2.5 concentration in Delhi during November.

During the same period, the study recorded and, therefore, established a significant negative relationship of daily PM2.5 concentrations with meteorological parameters such as wind speed, height, etc., and a positive relationship with the crop residue burning event that occurred three days earlier.

In plain terms, the study claims PM2.5 concentration on a given day was impacted by wind speed and other meteorological factors but more with how much crop burning had happened three days before.

“This (study) can help policymakers undertake location-specific actions based on meteorological forecasts to reduce the cost and improve the effectiveness of policy actions to reduce the effect of crop residue burning on the ambient PM2.5 concentration in Delhi during the post-monsoon season,a the researchers, all four of them from The Energy and Resources Institute’s Earth Sciences & Climate Change Division, said.

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