The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Tuesday wrote to Punjab and Haryana governments, asking them to control cases of crop stubble burning, after early instances were spotted on satellite data of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The early warning to the two states is important because every winter, the air pollution level increases to dangerous levels due to stubble burning, vehicular pollution, lack of proper systems of garbage burning and disposing of construction and demolition waste.
This year, however, controlling air pollution is not just critical for civic, political and health reasons. A study published by Havard University on air pollution and Covid-19 deaths in the United States found that even a minor increase in PM2.5 particles can lead to an increase in Covid-19 death rates. Another study reported in Physics of Fluids said wind speed is another critical factor when it comes to the spread of the disease. While none of these studies were done in India, experts here also feel that there is a good chance that increased suspended particulate matters and rising wind speed could transport the virus faster and wider. The Centre and states, which are grappling with a rising number of cases, must take these warnings seriously, implement anti-pollution protocols strictly, increase testing and strengthen the health care system for a potential surge in the number of cases during the winter months, especially in the northern plains.