More than 1,700 schools under three municipal corporations in Delhi were closed on Saturday due to heavy smog, the worst the national capital has witnessed in 17 years. Authorities called emergency meetings, as the air quality continued to remain alarming in Delhi-NCR because of calm winds.
The hazardous blanket of haze and smog loomed over the Capital, giving no respite to residents of one of world’s most polluted cities that has been reeling due to pollution since the festival of Diwali.
1) Breathing poison: The average level of particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) was above 400 micrograms per cubic metre, or in the “severe” category, at all the pollution measuring centres, including east Delhi’s Anand Vihar; Punjabi Bagh and Dwarka in the west; RK Puram in the south; and central Delhi’s Mandir Marg.
Particulate matters (PM) are tiny particles in the air that cause visibility problems and health hazards. The permissible level of PM 2.5 is 60µg/m³ while PM10 is 100 µg/m³. Levels beyond that can cause harm to the respiratory system as the ultra fine particulates can embed themselves deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.
2) Kejriwal’s appeal: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the central government needed to intervene to mitigate the alarming level of smog. He said vehicle restriction measures such as the odd-even programme will not be able to bring down smog, as initial studies suggested that the “large scale” influx of pollutant-laden smoke from farm fires in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana has aggravated the situation.
3) Into a huddle: Union environment minister Anil Dave called an emergency meeting of authorities in NCR states. Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung too called a meeting with CM Kejriwal on Monday to discuss measures to curb pollution.
The L-G has also requested public works department minister Satyendara Jain, Delhi environment and forest minister Imran Hussain, Union ministry of environment and forest secretary Ajay Narayan Jha, Delhi Police commissioner Alok Kumar Verma, the chairman of New Delhi Municipal Corporation and all three municipal corporations of Delhi to be present in the meeting.
4) BJP slams Kejriwal: The Delhi unit of the BJP criticised Kejriwal for allegedly indulging in a war of words with L-G Jung and the Centre instead of trying to find a solution to the pollution problem.
“It is a matter of concern that today, when Delhi is facing its worst ever environment crisis, the Kejriwal government instead of putting forward a solution to it is locked in a battle of words with the lieutenant governor and central government over appointment of officers in the power department,” Delhi BJP unit chief Satish Upadhyay said.
His remarks came a day after Kejriwal, also the Aam Aadmi Party convenor, alleged a “conspiracy” by the BJP-led central government to increase power tariff in the national capital and assured that he would not let this happen.
5) Ranji match called off: The smog cover caused the cancellation of the first day’s play in two Ranji Trophy games in Delhi, with players complaining of irritation in eyes and breathing problems.
The matches cancelled were group A league encounter between Bengal and Gujarat at the Feroz Shah Kotla and group C match at Karnail Singh Stadium between Tripura and Hyderabad.