It's not just Delhi that has been witnessing a thick smog cover over the past fortnight. The smog has also engulfed cities of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and other states.
The Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) air pollution monitoring data shows a sudden rise of particulate matter a primary cause of smog in cities such as Ludhiana and Amritsar in Punjab, Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and Solapur and Thane in Maharashtra.
"It (pollution-related smog) is spreading like a slow epidemic," said a board's senior scientist.
However, the board has failed to conduct any valuable research to suggest effective remedial measures to state governments. Kolkata-based Chitranjan Institute has already found that high exposure to particulate matter, especially during the smog period, can result in life-long breathing disorders among children.
New CPCB data shows that smog levels in cities of Punjab such as Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Amritsar is high, with respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) being above 500 micro grams per cubic metre, five times the national standard.
"The entire region is covered under a thick blanket of smog, showing steady degradation in overall environment conditions in the state," said SS Hundal, head of department of agro-meteorology at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.
Haryana is no less affected, with towns such as Ambala, Rohtak and Karnal recording high levels of smog. The picture is similar in the UP towns of Agra, Meerut and Lucknow. A CPCB scientist said the smog had spread up to the industrial towns of Solapur and Nashik in Maharashtra and Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
A spokesperson for the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said Cyclone Nilam, which hit south India last week, had also exacerbated smog conditions, especially in northern parts of the country.