Delhi`s air quality improves, settles at `very poor` level

Silhouette of children seen through a layer of dense fog on a cold winter morning in New Delhi Sunday

Odd-even scheme, one of the pet projects of Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is set to be implemented once again.

Air pollution in Delhi has hit such a high level that the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority on Monday banned the industrial activity in pollution hot spots and construction work across Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) until Wednesday.

Delhi's overall air quality index on Monday was recorded at 434, which falls in the "severe" category, a drastic decline from Sunday's "moderate" level at 171. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the Air Quality Index was recorded at 408 at 5 pm. In Wazirpur area, the air quality also dipped to the severe category with 400.

Pollution remained in the "severe" level for the fourth consecutive day as high humidity, low wind speed and cold weather are preventing the dispersal of particulates.

Twenty-five areas recorded severe pollution levels, while nine recorded very poor air quality, the CPCB data showed.

Delhi, along with other metropolitan states, has been reeling under bouts of pollution for the last couple of days as the notoriously sub-standard air quality has become even more pernicious.

In the NCR, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Noida recorded severe pollution while Gurgaon recorded "very poor" quality air.

The agencies concerned have also been asked to ensure strict action against illegal industries and make all efforts to control polluting activities, particularly waste burning.

Director Dr Randeep Guleria said there has been an increase in the number of patients visiting hospitals with complaints of respiratory problems and after suffering cardiac arrests during the months when pollution levels are high.

Noida recorded the worst air quality with an AQI of 464. "SAFAR forecasting model predicts a faster improvement due to faster dispersion and deposition owing to a shorter lifetime of particles near the surface".

"There is a lack of political will to take required measures on a sustained basis to contain pollution levels", said Sunil Dahiya, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India.

In a health advisory, the SAFAR asked Delhiites not to rely on common dust masks for protection.

Urging the public to join hands with the government in reducing the formation of toxic air, Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal said "If the need arises, we will soon implement the odd-even scheme in the capital". In view of the city's severe air quality, authorities have advised people to minimise outdoor activities and avoid use of private vehicles.

"Air pollution now contributes to more disease burden in India than non-communicable diseases caused by tobacco use".

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