In recent years, India has featured on a list of nations that has some of the worst air quality in its cities. In fact, a World Health Organization survey revealed that 14 out of the 18 most polluted cities are in North India, and it is in this area of the country where the capital city of New Delhi continues to experience some of the worst air in the world. A large part of this is thought to be caused by the seasonal burning of crop stubble in nearby Punjab and Haryana states, and the Government has called for an ambitious plan to curb this activity by 70% in order to make a greater difference in the short term.
Experts are skeptical of this aim, however, as not only does this effort come rather late in the year, but the upcoming Diwali celebrations season is considered to be another major cause of degrading the quality of breathable air. Adding to this is the fact that farmers in Punjab and Haryana have harvested their summer crops and are now preparing for winter sowing, which means that many have already began to burn off what remains from the harvest in order to clear their land more easily, as well as return some level of nutrients to the soil. Professor at the Indian Institute of Kanpur, Sachchida Nand Tripathi spoke of the uphill task that the government has before it, saying, “Bringing down crop stubble burning by up to 70 percent seems like a tall order even though there are things happening on the ground.”
New Delhi experienced an air quality crisis last year when pollution levels climbed to twelve times the permissible amount, and already this year, the concentration of particulate matter in the air in the capital city is above 300 in some parts, where anything over 100 is considered to be unhealthy.