Delhi woke up to a chilly Saturday morning with the day remaining cloudy and grey. Those undertaking train journeys faced harassment with many trains being delayed or cancelled due to the fog. A Northern Railway official confirmed that over 15 trains coming to Delhi were running late due to the fog and poor visibility.

Giving details about the weather in the city, a Meteorological Department official said: “The minimum temperature on Saturday settled at 12.5 degrees Celsius, four notches above the season’s average. Friday’s minimum temperature was recorded at 11.6 degrees Celsius - three notches above the season's average, while the maximum temperature was 19.7 degrees Celsius - three notches below the season’s average.”

Delhi has had it tough this past week with dense fog causing delays in flights and trains. The good news, however, is that the weatherman has forecast a sunny week ahead, though environmentalists warn of high air pollution levels in the city which they claims is a cause for concern.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) executive director Anumita Roychowdhury said severe smog in the city was a cause for extreme concern for public health because of the way pollution builds up and reaches alarming levels.

Average pollution levels estimated by CSE in Mandir Marg and R.K. Puram were approximately seven times the safe standards on December 18, almost double of what was recorded on December 15. The PM10 (particulate pollution) was recorded at 770 micrograms per cubic metre, while the safe standard is limited to 100 micrograms per cubic metre.

CSE found even the NO2 levels to be high. “They should ideally be around 75-80 micrograms per cubic metres whereas, we found it to be 320 micrograms per cubic metre on Tuesday and 305 micrograms per cubic metre on Wednesday,” added Ms. Roychowdhury

Medical studies have linked rising PM10 levels with respiratory and cardiac problems. “The government needs to come up with an aggressive action plan. In the city talks surrounding fog in Delhi is often concentrated more on visibility and flight delays, rather than the build up of extreme levels of pollution and its implications on public health,” she added.

She further stated that there was a need for short-term measures to address the potential health crisis and that the government needed to put a health advisory mechanism into place, issuing warnings about the pollution levels, so the people with existing respiratory problems such as asthma could take adequate caution.

Stating that there isn’t enough seriousness about curbing air pollution in India, Ms. Roychowdhury said: “In October, World Health Organisation reclassified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans causing lung and bladder cancer. The city should be prepared to cope with more severe bouts of smog throughout the winter, particularly in the coming January.”

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