Smog-hit Delhi turns ‘gas chamber’

Smoke trigger:Garbage dumped near a residential colony being set afire in Gurugram on Monday night.PTIPTI  

Air pollution in the Capital reached severe levels on Tuesday, forcing the implementation of stringent emission control measures and health precautions, including closure of primary schools on Wednesday. A combination of smoke from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and moisture turned Delhi into a “gas chamber”, prompting the authorities to announce a series of preventive measures, including a four-fold hike in parking fees and slashing of metro fares.

The smog brought down visibility levels, affecting flight and train operations. The heavy air permeated living rooms and even the underground metro stations in the city, making it difficult to breathe, turning eyes watery.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the air quality index (AQI) for Delhi was 448 as of 4 p.m., making it ‘severe’ — the worst category and one that comes with the warning that healthy people are also affected at this level. The AQI, calculated using data from 15 monitoring stations, also showed that particulate matter — both the smaller PM2.5 and the coarse PM10 — were the prominent pollutants in Delhi.

Across the National Capital Region, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Noida also had severe pollution, while Gurugram fell in the “very poor” category.

In Delhi, the level of the harmful PM2.5, which is small enough to get embedded in the lungs causing serious respiratory illness, was several times over the standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metre.

At the Delhi Pollution Control Committee station at Anand Vihar, the concentration of PM2.5 at 7.10 p.m. was a whopping 732 micrograms per cubic metre or more than 12 times the safe level.

Concentrations of PM10 were also well above the standard of 100 micrograms per cubic metre, with the R.K. Puram station recording 835 micrograms per cubic metre at 7.20 p.m.

No respite in sight

Delhiites are unlikely to get a respite soon, as the National Weather Forecasting Centre (NWFC) said the dense fog seen on Tuesday was likely to continue for three days, reducing visibility in the forenoon as conditions were favourable for the formation of fog.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “Delhi has become a gas chamber. Every year this happens during this part of year. We have to find a solution to crop burning in adjoining States.”

“Considering the high level of pollution, I have requested Manish Sisodia, Education Minister, to consider closing schools for a few days,” he added.

In the evening, Mr. Sisodia announced that primary schools in the national capital would remain closed on Wednesday.

(With inputs from PTI)