Saturday turned out to be the most polluted day of December this year. Christmas day is predicted to get worse with the air quality is likely to remain in the ‘severe’ zone like it was on Saturday.
The level of particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5micrometer (PM2.5) touched the 500-mark—the highest recordable—in the national capital, according to the Ministry of Earth Science’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
The levels of PM10 (particulate matter with diameter less than 10 micrometer) also remained high.
In Dhirpur, Delhi University, Pitampura, Terminal-3, and Mathura road, the PM levels were recorded at 500 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3). In other stations such as Lodi Road, the levels remained above 450.
The minimum safe level of PM2.5 set by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is 60ug/m3 and for PM10 the standard is 100ug/m3.
According to real-time pollution data recorded by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), Anand Vihar recorded the highest level at 899ug/m3 around 2pm.
Gufran Beig from SAFAR said that 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 wind speed recorded on Wednesday was 16kmph and on Saturday it fell to 1kmph. This was made worse by a dip in the minimum temperature, which fell from 11 degree Celsius to 8 degree Celsius,” Beig said.
He explained that such a dip in the air quality was because of the polluted air carried by winds from the Indo-Gangetic Plains. This is likely to continue in the coming days and is expected to bring smog back to the city.
The forecast says the average pollution level is likely to get worse on Sunday. From Monday, the situation may improve.
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.
On December 16, China declared the first ‘red alert’ of this season in Beijing, where schools were shut and thousands of vehicles were pulled out of roads. Residents were advised to stay indoors.
“Here, if the pollution levels spike like that on Saturday, we all are clueless on what should be done. We need a plan for such days. Opening your eyes only when the situation gets really bad will not solve anything,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).