People in Delhi and national capital region cities of Noida, Ghaziabad and Gurgaon woke up to hazy conditions with no sight of the sun till 11:30am.
Pollution control department officials said the hazy condition was due to smog - a result of pollution as well as dust in the air - though the situation was slightly better than the last two days and even improved a bit for the first time since Diwali.
According to officials from the regional pollution control board, stubble burning in neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab is also contributing to the smog in Delhi and the NCR.
“Post Diwali we see a considerable rise in pollution due to obvious reasons (bursting of crackers). However, that is not the only reason for the smoggy conditions in the city as dust particles are also a major reason behind it,” said Paras Nath, regional manager, UP Pollution Control Board, Ghaziabad.
“Crop burning is going on in neighbouring states which have also added to smog in the city. As the winter season is approaching, these particles tend to stay in the air adding to the smoggy conditions,” Nath added.
As of 11am on Wednesday, PM10 (particulate matter 10 micrometres or less in diameter) reached 743µg/m³ (microgram per cubic metre) while PM2.5 touched 561µg/m³ at Mandir Marg. At Punjabi Bagh, PM2.5 clocked 887µg/m³ while at Anand Vihar it was as much as 460µg/m³.
The prescribed standards of PM 2.5 and PM 10 are 60 and 100 respectively and anything beyond that can harm the respiratory system as the ultra fine particulates can embed deep into the lungs and also enter the bloodstream.
On Wednesday, the minimum temperature in Noida and Ghaziabad dropped to 16 degree Celsius and the maximum was 32 degree Celsius. The weatherman recorded the minimum temperature at 17 degrees Celsius, and the maximum temperature remained around 30 degrees in Gurgaon.
In Gurgaon, the minimum temperature in the city has seen an approximate drop of four degrees in the past week and residents have started to feel the chill in the air.
“The continuous flow of dry and cold north-westerly winds have also led to a slow change in temperature. However, there will be a gradual drop in night temperatures as the winter season is also around the corner,” RK Jenamani, director-in-charge of meteorological department at IGI Airport, said.
According to Met department officials, visibility in Delhi-NCR remained between 300 to 400 metres, which is considered extraordinarily poor with respect to the temperature that is not that low.
“As there is an obstruction in sunlight, the weather is expected to remain pleasant during mornings and evenings,” Jenamani said.
As schools and offices in Noida and Ghaziabad reopened on Wednesday after the Diwali break, commuters had a tough time travelling to the workplace amid the thick smog.
“I had to use parking lights while driving as the visibility was dangerously low. I was also extremely cautious while driving in the morning at 7am which also resulted in me getting late for office,” Abhishek Rathi, a resident of Indirapuram, said.
Commuters on the National Highway in Gurgaon were also affected as they had to drive slowly to avoid accidents.
“It took me more than 30 minutes to reach my office in Cyber Hub from Gurgaon’s Sector 45. Usually, it takes 15 to 20 minutes on any given day to cover this distance. The weather is not very clear,” Mohit Sharma, a corporate employee, said.
Fireworks on Diwali pushed pollution in Delhi to a dangerous level, the worst in three years. It turned the air highly toxic due to a deadly cocktail of harmful respirable pollutants and gases, engulfing the city with a cover of thick smog that triggered health alarms.
Various monitoring agencies, including Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Central Pollution Control Board and Centre for Science and Environment besides Pune-based SAFAR, were unanimous about the severity of the air quality in the Capital this Diwali.
The city of 20 million people, which ranks among the world’s top cities with foul air on a World Health Organization list, has been struggling to clean its air that contains a toxic cocktail of dust, smoke and gases from vehicle, factory exhausts and coal-fired power stations.
(With inputs from Ipsita Pati)