Brace yourself to breathe the season’s dirtiest air on Thursday as atmospheric pollution levels have shot up so much that Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain dubbed the capital’s air quality “fatal”.
The city’s four monitoring stations that record particulate matter carried a “severe” warning on the national air quality index on Wednesday. It was most polluted at the Anand Vihar station, followed by the ones at Punjabi Bagh and RK Puram.
Officials at the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), said Thursday’s air would be the season’s most polluted, but things will marginally improve on Friday and Saturday.
The reason, according to SAFAR director Gufran Beig, was the combined impact of cold weather conditions and the burning of agricultural waste in crop fields.
“As Thursday is expected to be cloudy, cold and thundery, the concentration of pollutants in the air will increase. Pollution will peak and will come down relatively in the next two days,” Beig said.
Health minister Jain, too, acknowledged the spike in pollutants in the air, saying it is a big problem for Delhi where air quality has reached a “fatal” level.
The primary pollutants were particulate matter 10 and 2.5. These get lodged in the lungs and cause respiratory as well as cardiological problems.
Delhi, which was declared the most polluted city in the world by the World Health Organization in 2014, has been choking on noxious air for the past week as low temperatures and high concentration of pollutants have turned the air into a toxic mix.
Experts said it was not just pollutants that have blanketed the city with smog. With low temperatures, the boundary layer, that separates the upper atmosphere from the lower atmosphere, descends and the concentration of pollutants increases. The pollutants cannot get distributed over a larger area.
“The pollutants have been on an upward trend because of scrub burning for the past 20 days but the situation has worsened in the past week. This is because of the change in temperature. The wind speed is almost zero and the cold weather conditions have trapped the pollutants close to earth’s surface,” Beig said.
The Delhi government on Wednesday requested the Centre to direct Punjab and Haryana to check crop burning in the two states, one of the major factors leading to smog in the Capital.
Environment minister Imran Hussain held a meeting with civic officials to discuss way to mitigate the detrimental effect the city was facing because of the burning of paddy stubble in the neighbouring states.