With winter just around the corner, Delhi has once again been enveloped in a thick layer of smog. As the air quality plummeted to ‘severe’ category, the State government resorted to restrictions which include a ban on construction and demolition activities. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also announced the closure of all primary schools.
Over the last few years, Delhi and its surrounding areas have been subject to hazardous smog, that conincides with the winter months rolling in. Smoke from farmers burning crop stubble, vehicle exhaust and factory emissions combine every winter to blanket the region in a toxic haze. In October this year, the Supreme Court remarked that until a couple of decades ago this was the best time in Delhi, but the city is now marred by worsening air quality and it is difficult to even step outside the house.
Here are the things you need to know about the prevailing situation:
- New Delhi topped a real-time list on November 3, 2023, of the world’s most polluted cities compiled by Swiss group IQAir which put the India’s capital’s AQI at 611 in the ‘hazardous’ category. An AQI of 0-50 is considered good while anything between 400-500 affects healthy people and is a danger to those with existing diseases.
- The concentration of PM2.5, fine particulate matter capable of penetrating deep into the respiratory system and triggering health problems, exceeded the safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre by seven to eight times at multiple locations throughout the region. According to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, smoke from stubble burning accounted for 25% of the PM2.5 pollution in Delhi on Thursday, and this figure may rise to 35% on Friday.
- Unfavourable meteorological conditions, sudden increase in the farm fire incidents and north-westerly winds moving the pollutants to Delhi are the major causes for sudden spike in AQI, the region’s Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) has said.
- The CAQM has said the pollution levels are only “expected to increase further” owing to highly unfavourable meteorological and climatic conditions.
- Consequently, the CAQM, ordered a ban on non-essential construction work and specific categories of polluting vehicles. However, it is yet to call upon Delhi and NCR States to implement all the emergency measures.
- A ban on plying of BS-III petrol and BS-IV diesel light motor vehicles (four-wheelers) was also declared by the CAQM in Delhi and in the districts of Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, and Gautam Buddh Nagar.
- The DMRC will run 20 extra Metro trips across its network starting November 3 in a bid to encourage more people to opt for the public transport. is already running 40 additional train trips on weekdays (Monday-Friday) from October 25.
- Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai has said that the government cannot control the pollution in the national capital completely and that sources outside the city cause twice the pollution than inside.
- Beyond affecting the respiratory system, rising air pollution levels have also been linked to the incidence of type 2 diabetes in Chennai and Delhi, according to two studies published in international journals.
- The Ministry of Earth Sciences has issued an advisory for sensitive groups, such as the elderly, children, and those with existing respiratory conditions, asking them to avoid all outdoor physical activity. It has also suggested that those with asthma keep their medicines handy.
- CAQM has also issued an advisory asking Delhiites to Walk or use cycles for small distances, opt for a cleaner commute, and combine errands and reduce trips. It also asks people, whose positions allow them work from home, to do so.
- CAQM advises against using coal and wood for heating purpose. Individual house owners may provide electric heaters (during winters) to security staff to avoid open burning, it says.
- The BCCI has banned the display of fireworks during the remaining World Cup games in Delhi and Mumbai due to worsening air quality. Delhi has only one match left to host, the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka game on November 6.
(With inputs from agencies)