The air quality in Delhi on Sunday was this season’s worst, said an official of a government organisation working to mitigate pollution, even as a thick smog cover that has been looming over the Capital for the past six days continued to spark fears of health hazards.
Gufran Beig, project director of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), told HT that foul air and heavy smog made Sunday the most polluted day of the season. He, however, said things might start improving from Wednesday.
SAFAR data showed that the rolling average of PM 10 was 950µg/m³ and PM 2.5 was 590µg/m³. 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 and PM10 is 100 µg/m³. Levels beyond that can cause harm to the respiratory system as the fine particulates can embed themselves deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.
The previous worst was recorded a day ago when the rolling average of PM 2.5 was 485µg/m³ and PM 10 was 790µg/m³.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) across the city on Sunday hovered around 500, according to SAFAR data and HT’s index. Pollution level is classified as severe if the AQI is between 401 and 500. Punjabi Bagh in west Delhi, Anand Vihar in east Delhi, Mandir Marg in central Delhi and RK Puram in south Delhi were among the most polluted areas.
“Winds are coming from north-north west, the areas where biomass burning is taking place, from Thursday. Friday it changed a bit thereby bringing a bit of relief but then again it got worse.
“Every year, it is usually easterly winds this time of the year, with occasional western disturbances. This year these north-north-west winds are creating problems,” Beig said.
Authorities have said the situation has worsened due to the “large scale” influx of pollutant-laden smoke from farm fires in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana.
With Delhi reeling due to pollution since the festival of Diwali, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a string of measures to fight the crisis.
All schools in Delhi will remain closed for three days and the car-rationing odd-even scheme could be brought back, said Kejriwal, who admitted that the city has turned into a gas chamber.
He also announced a five-day ban on all construction and demolition, among other measures. Dust arising out of these activities is one of the big reasons for the rise in PM 2.5 levels.