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Thick layer of smog shadows Delhi as AQI remains in ‘severe’ category

A layer of thick smog continues to overshadow the national capital as the 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) stood at 424 on Tuesday, its worst this year.

On Wednesday at 6am, this trend continued with several areas in Delhi registering an AQI of over 400, which falls into the “severe” category.

This is because NASA’s satellite images showed a dense cluster of red dots, meaning farm fires in Punjab and parts of Haryana. A layer of smoke was also seen over large parts of the Indo-Gangetic plains, according to PTIA.

This is the second time Delhi’s AQI has slipped into the serious category. Earlier this year, it registered 402 on January 2.

According to the date released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi’s air pollution rose to the top of the “severe” category at Burari Crossing with AQI of 477, Bawana at 465, Wazirpur at 467, Narela at 465, Vivek Vihar (457), Rohini (462), Jahangirpuri (475), Sonia Vihar (469) and Ashok Vihar (465).

On Tuesday morning, the AQI in Noida was 444, in Dhirpur the air quality went to 594 and in Gurugram to 391, which falls into the “very bad” category.

How does a bad AQI affect people?

If the AQI falls into the “severe” category, it can have negative consequences for healthy people and serious consequences for those with an existing disease.

A report from the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago (EPIC)’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), released in June, said Delhi residents are expected to lose 10 years in life expectancy due to poor air quality.

The PM 2.5, the particles in the air that increase with pollution, are harmful to the lungs. On Tuesday, the PM.25 in Delhi was above 450 micrograms per cubic meter, which is about 8 times higher than what is considered the safe limit.

When does Delhi experience the worst air quality?

Delhi records its worst AQI from Nov 1 to Nov 15. During this period, the average PM2.5 concentration is 285 micrograms per cubic meter.

This is also a time when temperatures begin to drop and low wind speeds and decreasing temperatures are fueling the build-up of pollutants, Mahesh Palawat, vice president (meteorology and climate change), Skymet Weather told PTI.

Which factors contribute to this?

The share of farm fires in Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution was 14 percent on Tuesday, according to SAFAR, a forecasting agency under the Union’s Ministry of Earth Sciences. It was 22 percent on Monday, 26 percent on Sunday, the highest this year so far, and 21 percent on Saturday.

In what is the highest this season so far, Punjab reported 2,131 farm fires. There were 1,842 farm fires on Tuesday.

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) called increased incidents of farm fires a “serious concern” for pollution in Delhi.

A CAQM official said the sharp rise in the air quality index over the past five days “has more to do with meteorological and external factors”.

“It’s more about meteorology – stagnant winds and relatively low nighttime temperatures in October this year. The wind direction is constantly changing, so the net result (dispersion) is zero. This is also reflected in satellite images,” he added.

Government actions

The Commission for Air Quality Management on Tuesday ordered the Delhi government to step up preventive measures and consider deploying water sprinklers and anti-smog guns around the clock amid rising pollution in Delhi.

During a review meeting, the committee proposed to step up measures to control dust pollution and increase the frequency of water sprayers and anti-smog guns.

“Since construction has been banned for the time being, the city government can use the anti-smog guns and sprinklers available from these agencies,” a CAQM official said.

Apart from this, the Center’s air quality panel on Saturday had ordered authorities to ban construction and demolition activities in Delhi-NCR, except in critical projects and other curbs under phase three of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP ).

First implemented in 2017, GRAP is a series of measures against air pollution that are followed in the capital and surrounding area, depending on the severity of the situation.

This year, based on forecasts, pavements will be imposed on polluting activities up to three days in advance.

If the AQI reaches a “Severe Plus” category, there would be implementation of steps such as a truck entry ban in Delhi, allowing 50 percent of staff to work from home in public, municipal and private offices, closure of educational institutions and cruising vehicles on an odd-even basis, etc.

With input from the agency

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