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Govt wakes up to dust pollution, halts civil construction activities in Delhi till June 17

The air quality in Delhi remained beyond the “severe” level for the third day on Thursday and the authorities warned that dusty conditions were likely to prevail for another 3-4 days and advised people to avoid staying outdoors for long hours.

delhi Updated: Jun 15, 2018 07:59 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Dellhi
Dust pollution,Delhi pollution,Delhi dust
Vehicles cross a barrage on Hindon river as dust covers the skyline in Ghaziabad.(AFP Photo)

Delhi’s lieutenant governor Anil Baijal banned all construction activity in the capital until Sunday, forced to act by toxic air pollutants being carried to the capital by dust-laden winds blowing in from neighbouring states. Most other parts of northern India were also covered by haze, including the mountain state of Himachal Pradesh.

At least 13 departing flight from Delhi airport and 11 Delhi-bound flights were cancelled because of the dust pollution, which prompted the authorities to advise people to avoid staying outdoors for too long.

Baijal directed government agencies and municipal corporations to enforce dust control measures at construction sites, carry out water sprinkling and mechanized sweeping of roads and prevent open garbage burning to prevent dust pollution.

Delhi is not the only city in northwest India to encounter such high levels of pollution. A blanket of dust has enveloped parts of Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. On Thursday, it was seen extending to some parts of Bihar too.

“Pollution in several cities and towns including Greater Noida, Gurugram, Jodhpur, Khanna, Ludhiana, Mandi Gobindgarh, Moradabad, Panchkula and Rupnagar were found to be severe,” said a CPCB official.

The Supreme Court-appointed panel Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority had on Wednesday directed states in the national capital region to start water sprinkling.

“We are expecting some improvement on Friday as the government agencies have been asked to sprinkle water and strictly enforce control measures at construction sites,” said A Sudhakar, member-secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the country’s apex pollution monitoring and controlling agency.

Although air pollution improved marginally on Thursday, the city’s 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) remained in the ‘severe’ category for the second consecutive day. The AQI?on Thursday was 431, down from 445. the previous day. A reading between 401 and 500 is considered severe.

The India Meteorological Department(IMD) said the winds that are bringing dust particles to the capital are likely to weaken, which may help lessen the pollution level. These winds comprised mostly of PM10, levels of which had shot up eight times the safe limit on Wednesday. Around 7pm on Thursday, PM10 was recorded at 764ug/m3, which is seven times the permissible limits.

PM10, or particulate matter 10, is a key measure of air toxicity that describes inhalable particles with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers or smaller.

The level of PM2.5 – ultrafine pollutants that can penetrate deep inside the lungs – also breached ‘severe’ levels, moving towards ‘emergency’ level. With a reading 282ug/m3 at 10 am on Thursday, it was nearly five times the safe level of 60 ug/m3.

“Strong westerly winds blowing close to the surface are bringing in dust from across northwestern states, particularly Rajasthan. An anti-cyclonic flow over Rajasthan is channelizing these winds towards Delhi,” said Kuldeep Srivastava, a senior scientist with the regional weather forecasting centre.

Scientists at the India Meteorological Department said these winds are likely to weaken after Friday, which could result in a significant improvement in air quality. But for the high level of pollution to come down to normal levels, rain is essential.

“There is a possibility of rain and thundershower around June 17 or June 18. A cyclonic circulation is developing over Pakistan and this could approach India, bringing some rain,” said a senior IMD official.

First Published: Jun 14, 2018 17:36 IST