Delhi pollution: The air quality in Delhi reached the ‘severe’ zone, leading to the implementation of stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan. Primary schools in Delhi will be closed for the next two days, and older emission standard vehicles are prohibited in certain districts of the National Capital Region. The Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 402, entering the severe category for the first time this season. Stubble burning and unfavorable meteorological conditions are cited as the reasons for the sudden deterioration.
The air quality in the capital region has declined to the ‘severe’ zone, resulting in the implementation of stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). As a result, primary schools in Delhi will remain closed for the next two days, and vehicles with older emissions standards are prohibited from operating in several districts of the National Capital Region (NCR), certain activities such as construction and demolition (C&D), stone crushing, and mining have been prohibited.
In order to combat the pollution, the Commission has urged all states to impose strict restrictions on the use of BS III petrol and BS IV diesel cars in Delhi, as well as in the districts of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, and Gautam Budh Nagar. To meet the increased demand for public transport, the Delhi Metro will be adding 20 more trips across its network from Friday, in addition to the 40 extra train trips already running on weekdays.
The Commission’s order prohibits all construction and demolition activities, except those related to railways, metro services, airports, inter-state bus terminals, national security, defence-related activities, and projects of national importance. Non-polluting and non-dust generating activities can continue, but the ban on C&D activities will have an impact on the earnings of daily-wage laborers in the housing sector.
The Commission has invoked stage III of the GRAP to prevent further deterioration of air quality in the region. Unfavorable meteorological conditions, an increase in farm fires, and north-westerly winds moving pollutants towards Delhi are identified as the major causes for the sudden spike in AQI. The Commission is closely monitoring the situation and has directed officials to intensify public transport services and introduce differential rates to encourage off-peak travel.
As part of the emergency measures, all schools will hold primary classes online. Municipal Corporation of Delhi officials have been directed to intensify dust mitigation measures, including sprinkling water on roads, using mechanical road sweepers, and curbing open burning of waste. The possibility of biomining legacy waste at the three landfills is also being considered.
Experts have emphasized the need for emergency measures to prevent further pollution in the city. Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of research and advocacy at the Centre for Science and Environment, stated that such measures are necessary to prevent the further loading of pollution when pollutants are already trapped in the city’s air. Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, highlighted the failure of the system to reduce pollution at the source and the significant contribution of stubble burning and the transport sector to the pollution levels.
Yesterday, the deterioration in Delhi’s air quality began at 8am, with an average Air Quality Index (AQI) of 351. By 4pm, the AQI had reached 392, and by 5pm, it had escalated to 402, entering the severe category for the first time this season. According to data from the Central Pollution Control Board, the AQI worsened to 417 by 8pm.
At 8pm, the most polluted stations were Mundka (475), Anand Vihar (474), Rohini (472), Bawana (466), Narela (448), and Dwarka Sec-8 (446). Experts attribute the sudden deterioration in air quality to an increase in stubble burning and unfavorable meteorological conditions. Calm conditions prevailed during the night, while light winds of up to 3kmph blew during the day, hindering the dispersal of pollutants.
(The story was originally published in TOI)
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