Delhi Remains a Gas Chamber as Thick Smog Leads to 'Severe' Air Quality, Schools Shut

News18.com

New Delhi: The air pollution emergency in Delhi continued on Thursday with an overall air quality index (AQI) of 470 in the severe plus category.

The PM 10 count is also in the severe plus category at 496 and PM 2.5 count at 324. According to a forecast by Safar India, no sudden recovery is expected under this condition at least for the next two days and AQI is likely to deteriorate further towards severe plus category on Thursday. The condition may slightly improve by November 15, it said.

The Supreme Court-mandated anti-pollution authority EPCA on Wednesday ordered closure of schools in Delhi-NCR for the next two days as pollution in the region hovered close to emergency levels. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) also advised people to avoid outdoor exposure and work from home.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also extended the restrictions on dirty-fuel based industries in Delhi-NCR, hot mix plants and stone crushers till the morning of November 15, as the MeT department said strong winds are expected from Friday, which will bring down the air pollution levels to the very poor category.

According to weather experts, a fall in the temperature and wind speed led to the accumulation of pollutants. The problems were compounded by a cloud cover that blocked sunlight.

Incidents of stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab have increased and northwesterly winds have been bringing more farm fire plume to the Delhi-NCR region, they said. However, they said, the situation is likely to improve on Friday with an increase in wind speed due to a fresh western disturbance and a dip in farm fires.

A pungent smog lingered over Delhi-NCR for around a week after Diwali as a result of emissions from firecrackers, stubble burning and unfavourable weather.

Last week, the apex court had pulled up the Centre and state governments for their inability to curb stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and bring air pollution in Delhi under control.

It had also ordered that all farmers be given a Rs 100 per quintal incentive to prevent them from setting their fields on fire in preparation for the next crop, and provide them free machines to get rid of the agriculture residue.

The period between October 15 and November 15 is considered critical as maximum number of stubble burning incidents take place in this span in Punjab and adjoining states, which is one of the main reasons for alarming spike in pollution in Delhi-NCR.

Despite a ban on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, farmers continue to defy it amid lack of financial incentives.