All construction work in New Delhi will be put on hold till Sunday to combat the rising temperature and level of air pollution. The decision was taken at the meeting between the Environment Pollution Control Authority, the L-G, and Delhi government officials, as reported by The Indian Express. The importance of water-sprinkling to reduce local dust was emphasised upon.
"A massive afforestation drive from 15 July to 15 September across Delhi will be undertaken. Residents' participation is welcome," said Delhi Lieutenant General Anil Baijal in a tweet. He also said that information about the procurement of saplings, identified areas for plantation activities can be obtained from the forest department.
Those attending the meeting also decided to ensure better implementation and evaluation of tree-planting efforts this monsoon season.
Doctors warn of health hazards
On Thursday, doctors strongly recommended wearing masks and staying indoors as the air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) suddenly deteriorated to severe levels due to a dust storm that began on Wednesday and is likely to persist till Friday.
"For people with respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD) or emphysema even small increases in dust concentration can make their symptoms worse," said RK Singal, Principal Consultant and Director, BLK Super Speciality Hospital.
Dust particles that are small enough to be inhaled may cause irritation of the eyes, coughing, sneezing, hay fever and asthma attacks. Babies, young children, and elderly people are also more likely to develop health problems from long-term exposure to high levels of dust.
NCR sees >a rise> in heat and dust particles
The NCR on Wednesday saw a sudden rise in heat and dust brought through winds from Rajasthan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Even on Thursday, the NCR woke up under the shade of dust with the minimum temperature at 34 degrees Celsius, five notches above the season's average.
High particulate matter (PM) 10 levels in the capital are due to high wind speeds which have brought dust particles from neighbouring Rajasthan. The real-time air quality index recorded in South Delhi's RK Puram area had breached the 999 level on Thursday morning, Singal said.
"Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The average PM 10 levels were over 800 on Thursday, over four times the average air pollution recorded this month," he said.
The type and size of a dust particle determine how toxic the dust is and the harmful impact on health is mostly determined by the amount of dust present in the air and how long one is exposed to it.
"These particles usually consist of sand particles, pollens, dust, ash and other fine particles. Dust pollution is a major concern because dust can cause several diseases in humans ranging from minor allergies to fatal lung and heart diseases," said Vikramjeet Singh, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital.
"This is because dust particles can be as tiny as a few micrometers, small enough to enter our respiratory system. To prevent the effects of dust pollution, it is recommended to wear masks when going out and staying indoors," Singh said.
Dust pollution is caused by deforestation, desertification, construction, mining, dust storms and other natural and man-made processes. Apart from vehicular and industrial emissions, one of the main reasons for air pollution in Delhi-NCR is the construction dust.
People with existing respiratory and heart conditions, including smokers, are at greater risk of developing long-term health problems.
Anyone who regularly experiences shortness of breath or hay fever symptoms from breathing dust should consult their doctor.
With inputs from IANS