This Christmas, the air people inhaled in Delhi was in the “severe” category of air pollution. However, things are likely to get better from Monday.
The 24-hour rolling average of PM10 and PM2.5 were recorded at 430 and 290μg/m3 respectively on Sunday morning, according to the Ministry of Earth Science’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
PM2.5 and PM10 are ultra-fine particles that are the dominant air pollutants in Delhi. The acceptable levels of PM 2.5 and PM10 are 60 and 100 microgram per cubic metre, respectively.
Later in the day, the rolling average of PM10 and PM2.5 were recorded at 428 and 273μg/m3, respectively. On Monday, however, things are supposed to improve as the rolling average is predicted to be 363 and 246μg/m3, respectively.
China declares a “red alert” at this level. In fact, severe AQI for three consecutive days is met with desperate measures such as shutting down of schools and offices, closing down industries and power plants and rationing of vehicles on the roads.
SAFAR has advised people in Delhi to avoid outdoor physical activity. People with heart or lung diseases, senior citizens, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low when air quality turns “severe”, it said.
“After a week of relatively good air quality days, compared to the last three years, there was a spike on Friday mainly because of a sudden fall in the wind speed. The dip in the air quality is also because of the polluted air carried by winds from the Indo-Gangetic Plains,” Gufran Beig from SAFAR said.
The main factors that influence Delhi’s air quality are wind speed and direction. Whenever the surface wind speed decreases, pollution levels shoot up.
According to Beig, the air quality may get slightly better from Monday and improve further on Tuesday.
Despite high pollution levels, Delhi is yet to put in place a comprehensive response mechanism. The graded response system, proposed by the CPCB, is yet to be notified or enforced.
The proposed plan had suggested that when the air quality remains in the ‘severe’ level for 48 hours, entry of trucks, barring those carrying essential commodities, will be stopped from entering the city and the odd-even road rationing scheme will kick in.
The proposal says there should be a complete ban on the burning of waste, brink kilns operating in and around the city will be shut and parking rates will be hiked by at least four times.