Every year at the onset of winter season (October–November), crop residue/parali/stubble burning starts in Punjab and Haryana, leading to heavy air pollution in Delhi, and adversely affecting human and environmental health. During this time, the combination of unfavourable meteorological conditions, additional emissions from stubble burning, and firework activities in this area causes the air quality to further deteriorate. In this study, we have attempted to understand the influence of parali and firecracker incidents on air pollutants’ variability over Delhi during the last three years (2020 to 2022). For this purpose, daily average particulate matter and gaseous pollutants data were fetched from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and daily total fire counts and fire radiative power (FRP) data were retrieved from NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS). A bigger area of severe burning is suggested by higher FRP values and higher fire counts in the middle of November in all the years considered. Three years satellite-based FIRMS data over Punjab and Haryana show the highest number of active fire counts in 2021 (n = 80,505) followed by 2020 (n = 75,428), and 2022 (n = 49,194). More than 90% parali burning incidents were observed in Punjab state only despite the considerable variability in numbers among the years. The significant effect of parali burning was seen on pollutant concentration variability. As the number of fire count increases or decreases in Punjab and Haryana, there is a corresponding increase or decrease in the particulate matter concentration with a time lag of few days (1 to 2 days). The trend in backward air mass trajectories suggests that the variable response time of pollutants’ concentration is due to local and distant sources with different air mass speeds. Our estimates suggest that stubble burning contributes 50–75% increment in PM2.5 and 40 to 45% increase in PM10 concentration between October and November. A good positive correlation between PM2.5, PM10, NOX, and CO and fire counts (up to 0.8) suggests a strong influence of stubble burning on air quality over Delhi. Furthermore, the firecracker activities significantly increase the concentration of particulate matter with ~100% increment in PM2.5 and ~55% increment in PM10 mass concentrations for a relatively shorter period (1 to 2 days).
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- Fire counts
- Gaseous pollutants
- Particulate matter
- Stubble burning