Smoggy Sunday: air quality drops to ‘very poor’

Lost in the haze: A metro train passes in front of the 108-foot statue of Lord Hanuman in Karol Bagh on Sunday.  

With the Air Quality Index reaching 351 — rated as ‘very poor’ — on Sunday, the pollution levels in the city are going back to the levels recorded just days after Diwali, which had led to the implementation of a slew of emergency measures.

The Capital’s struggle with air pollution got international attention on Sunday as mask-wearing Sri Lankan cricketers laid bare the bitter reality of the city’s ‘very poor’ air quality, which is toxic enough to trigger serious respiratory ailments.

This is the second time that the city’s image has taken a serious beating due to pollution.

The Delhi Half Marathon had taken place on November 19 under similar conditions, replete with particulates and noxious gases, which experts had said would be hazardous for the runners.

Dense smog

On Sunday, poor visibility due to smog led to a delay of over 20 minutes during the India vs. Sri Lanka Test match at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium. It also prompted the Sri Lankan players to take to the field wearing anti-pollution masks.

The AQI on Sunday was slightly higher than the 331 recorded during the first day of the Test on Saturday. The concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 at noon, when the Sri Lankans first halted the proceedings of the Test match, were 378 and 223 microgram per cubic meter (ug/m3).

The safe standards for PM2.5 and PM10 are 60 and 100 ug/m3 respectively.

Low minimum temperatures combined with high humidity with slow winds created ideal weather condition for the creation of dense smog in the Capital, the Meteorological Department said.

The maximum and minimum temperatures on Sunday were 23.9 and 8 degrees Celsius respectively, both one degree below normal.

The humidity hovered between 39% and 94%, which created enough moisture to trap particulate matter close to the surface leading to smog.

The MeT department said that light rains are expected on December 5 and 6 but till then, the mist and shallow fog is likely to continue bringing down visibility. The Test match between India and Sri Lanka is scheduled to end on December 6.

The India Medical Association (IMA) had earlier warned that sports should not be played in the “hazardous” Delhi air and had recommended that the Delhi Half Marathon be cancelled. They had also said that the last International cricket match played between India and New Zealand should have not been played in the prevailing conditions.

Dr. S. K. Chhabra head of Department of Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care Medicine at Primus Super Speciality Hospital warned Delhiites to not venture outside as much as possible.

“People should avoid outdoor activities including morning and evening walks. Air quality is at its worst in the early mornings and evenings. No sports, no marathon, no outdoor matches,” advised Dr. Chhabra.

Dr. Anil Bansal of the Delhi Medical Association said that wearing a mask was advisable when going outdoors but added that it was not really very effective if worn loosely and may make breathing difficult if worn too tightly.

No ‘good’ days

So far this year, the city has recorded just two ‘good’ air days, both in July. Last month, the city recorded 20 “very poor” days and seven “severe” days.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 12:50:09 AM |

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