Christmas morning in Delhi was a foggy, cold affair this year, with air quality plunging to the ‘severe’ category of pollution.
The 24-hour rolling average of PM10 and PM2.5 were recorded at 430 and 290µg/m3 on Sunday, according to the ministry of earth science’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR). The acceptable levels of PM 2.5 and PM10 are 60 and 100 microgram per cubic metre.
PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter. It is hazardous because it can enter the lungs and aggravate asthma or other respiratory conditions.
SAFAR has advised people in Delhi to avoid outdoor physical activity on Sunday. 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 in a statement.
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Forecasts say PM2.5 levels will reach 342 during Christmas day. China declares a “red alert” when air pollution reaches this level. Such severe readings for three consecutive days is met with measures such as shutting down of schools and offices, closing down industries and power plants and rationing of vehicles on the roads.
Delhi has yet to implement a comprehensive response mechanism even as the city recorded persistently high levels of air pollution after Diwali. The graded response system, proposed by the Central Pollution Control Board, is yet to be enforced.
The proposed plan suggests that when the air quality records ‘severe’ readings for 48 hours, the entry of trucks, barring those carrying essential commodities, will be stopped from entering the city and the odd-even road rationing scheme will be implemented.
The proposal also 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.
Dense fog conditions
“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. He also said the air quality may improve slightly from Monday.
Officials of the Regional Weather Forecasting Centre (RWFC) said dense fog is likely to persist in Delhi over the Christmas weekend. “An induced circulation is present over Pakistan and the adjacent Punjab regions. Under it’s influence light easterly winds are likely to prevail, and humidity is also expected to increase,” the RWFC said in a statement released on Friday.
Strong westerly winds have started sweeping the national capital region which, by Monday, would help clear the fog, said a scientist with RWFC. The India Meteorological Department said that temperature on Sunday had not reduced much with it hovering around the 14 degree celsius mark on Sunday morning.