Health emergency declared in the Capital

Hospitals report rise in respiratory and eye problems as air quality enters ‘severe plus’ category

November 02, 2019 01:48 am | Updated 01:49 am IST - NEW DELHI

Return of the mask:   Students set off for school wearing masks in New Delhi on Friday.

Return of the mask: Students set off for school wearing masks in New Delhi on Friday.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority declared a public health emergency in the Capital as pollution levels entered the ‘severe plus’ category in the early hours of Friday.

According to the official data provided by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the overall AQI score of Delhi was 504 at 3.30 a.m. on Friday after which alarm bells were sounded. The average AQI score of Delhi recorded at 4.30 p.m., which is the average of 32 monitoring stations in the past 24 hours, was 484, in the ‘severe’ category.

AQI readings

Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Greater Noida and Gurugram had AQI scores of 499, 496, 479, 496 and 469 respectively, all in the ‘severe’ category.

In a letter to chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, EPCA chairman Bhure Lal said: “The air quality in Delhi and NCR deteriorated further last night and is now at the ‘severe plus level’. We have to take this as a public heath emergency as it will have adverse health impacts on all, particularly our children.”

He added that construction activities in Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida will not be allowed till November 5 morning. Mr. Lal said the deterioration in air quality is due to a combination of accumulated toxins because of local pollution, further spiked by bursting of crackers on Deepavali, stubble burning and extremely adverse weather conditions.

He added that the India Meteorological Department has said that the weather will improve in the coming days, but it is difficult to say if it would lead to any substantial reduction in pollution levels.

An urgent meeting of the CPCB was also convened during which it was discussed that stubble burning contribution to pollution has gone up to 45%, resulting in the current high particulate matter concentration. The agency advised people to minimise their outdoor activities during the period.

Meanwhile, there has been an increase in the number of people complaining of respiratory problems post-Deepavali. Arvind Aggarwal, senior consultant, internal medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, said: “We have witnessed a rise in the number of people reporting to hospitals with respiratory and eye problems. An increase of 20%-22% patients has been seen in the OPD. People are facing symptoms associated with pollution like irritation in the eyes and throat, dry skin, skin allergies, chronic cough and breathlessness. We recommend asthmatic patients, elderly and kids should stay at home.”

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