Srinagar- The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Kashmir Valley has marginally improved following snowfall in higher reaches and rainfall in the plains over the last two days.
The air quality, which was previously categorized as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” by Air Quality Index (AQI) has now improved to the “Moderate” category.
On Thursday, the PM2.5 concentration in Srinagar was exceeding the WHO annual air quality guideline value by a factor of 9.2. The city’s AQI was at 127*, surpassing the healthy threshold of 50 for individuals. However, after the rain on Friday, the air quality in the valley significantly improved from “Unhealthy to “Moderate” with AQI at 74*.
On Saturday, the AQI reached to 65* with PM2.5 concentration in Srinagar at 3.8.
Notably, during the winter season, the air quality in the valley takes a noticeable downturn, reaching an “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” level in the summer capital.
Dr Syed Mudasir Qadri, Associate Professor, Internal and Pulmonary Medicine SKIMS Soura Srinagar defines “sensitive group” as those people who have underlying medical conditions.
“People who are suffering from different ailments including lung disease, cancer and other chronic disease are more vulnerable to the toxic pollutants in the air,” Dr. Qadri told Kashmir Observer.
He further said that elderly and infants, who have an immune system in developing stages; can also become sick if the air quality is poor.
The AQI suggests “sensitive groups” to reduce outdoor exercise and close the windows to avoid dirty outdoor air. It also suggests face mask for outdoors and using an air purifier in the homes.
Notably, the burning of biomass gains momentum as the autumn sets in. People prepare for winter by converting leaves and twigs into charcoal. Frequently, the pruned wood and leaves are burned, and the resulting ash is either combined with charcoal for winter heating or mixed into the soil to enhance its fertility.
The people also use wood and charcoal for hamams and fire-chambers (bukharis) in the winter contributing to the air pollution.
Last year, Director Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Dr Parvaiz Koul had said that every year around 10,000 deaths are attributed to particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) exposure and there is need to control it by countering it.
However, Rafi Ahmad Bhat, Regional Director, Jammu and Kashmir Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC) refused the claims and maintained the air quality in the valley usually remains “satisfactory”
However, Dr. Bilquees Ara Siddiqi, senior scientist and laboratory head at pollution control board told Kashmir Observer that the AQI in the valley keeps fluctuating and that Srinagar is among the top four clear air cities in the country.
“The air quality reading usually remains good but it keeps on fluctuating,” she told Kashmir Observer.
Another official from the JKPCC said that the air quality in Kashmir remains good in summers and poor in winters.
“During winters the air quality remains 120-150pm while the permissible limit is 80-100,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
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