Air quality in India's capital deteriorates to its worst in 2020

Delhi residents complain of breathlessness as air quality worsens

Air quality in India's capital deteriorates to its worst in 2020

Winter is not looking great for Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) with the rising cases of COVID19 and the untameable pollution levels.

New Delhi's overall air quality index, which measures pollutants including PM2.5 particles, rose to 488, its highest level in a year, according to government data.

Monday's order came as a respite for the Indian capital where air quality was marked "severe" for the fifth straight day, increasing the risk of its 20 million residents to coronavirus infection.

The levels of PM2.5 - which is about three per cent the diameter of a human hair and can lead to premature deaths from heart and lung diseases - were 644 µg/m3 at 12 noon - around 11 times higher than the safe limit of 60 µg/m3.

India's main environment court, the National Green Tribunal, forbid the sale and use of firecrackers in the city of 20 million people, and neighbouring cities, from Monday to December 1, but some people will inevitably ignore the order.

The city's air quality index (AQI) stood at 477, the highest since November 3 past year when it was 494, according to Central Pollution Control Board data.

PM10 levels in Delhi-NCR stood at 591 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m3) at 10 am, the highest since November 15 a year ago, when it was 637 µg/m3, according to CPCB data. "Earlier, the Delhi government had allowed green crackers, but looking into the situation of increasing number of COVID-19 cases and rising pollution, it was later made a decision to ban any kind of firecrackers", Mr. Rai said.

If PM2.5 and PM10 levels are more than 300 g/m3 and 500 g/m3 for over 48 hours, emergency measures such ban on construction activities, entry of trucks and auto rationing scheme can be implemented under the Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi-NCR notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2017.

In Delhi recorded very high levels of PM 2.5 across the city. Calm winds and low temperatures trap pollutants close to the ground, while a favourable wind speed helps in their dispersal.

However, the transport-level wind direction has changed now, which is likely to reduce stubble intrusion.

Mahesh Palawat, an expert at Skymet Weather, a private forecasting agency, said the visibility dropped to 400 at some places due to dense smog in the morning.

According to an online survey with a sample size of 10,500, around 85 per cent households in Delhi, 62 per cent in Gurgaon, 68 per cent in Noida, 43 per cent in Ghaziabad and 66 per cent in Faridabad have "either one or more individuals suffering from pollution-related ailments".

V K Soni, the head of the IMD's environment research centre, said a major improvement in Delhi-NCR's air quality is highly unlikely in the coming days.

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