Four-day spell of severe pollution ends — for now: A ‘very poor’ sigh of relief for capital

Change in wind direction and speed caused an improvement in air quality Saturday. However, it is expected to see a dip again on Wednesday, an IMD official said. Amit Mehra

Relief came in the form of winds on Saturday, as the air quality index value in Delhi fell 101 points — from 458 (severe) on Friday to 357 (very poor).

The city had been reeling under a four-day spell of severely polluted air since Tuesday, which forced schools to shut on Thursday and Friday.

Officials at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the main reason behind the improvement was a change in wind direction and speed. “Winds in the range of 10 km per hour were seen Saturday, which helped flush out pollutants. Also, the prevalent wind direction means the effects of crop residue burning are not being felt as strongly as before,” said a senior IMD official.

Read | For a few hours, Delhi was world’s most polluted

On Monday, the AQI is expected to be in the ‘poor’ category. The relief, however, is short-lived and air quality is expected to dip again starting Wednesday. “Till Tuesday, wind direction is expected to be favourable but a switch to northwesterly winds is expected again. Pollution will start rising then,” an IMD official said.

SAFAR officials said the contribution of crop residue burning in Delhi’s pollution was 5% Saturday, down from 10% Friday. It is expected to drop to 2% Sunday.

“Under the influence of Western Disturbance, strong boundary layer and surface winds, accumulated pollutants are being flushed out... high surface winds are forecast to continue for the next two days,” an official said.

According to sources in the Delhi government, the odd-even scheme, implemented in the city from November 4-15, is not expected to make a quick return.

For the past week, air pollution has been at the centre of the city’s politics, with Aam Aadmi Party leaders Friday attacking East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir for skipping a parliamentary panel meeting to discuss Delhi’s air crisis.

On Saturday, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is also BJP’s in-charge for Assembly elections in Delhi, tagged CM Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet, saying those who supported the slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ should apologise after the Supreme Court’s order on the Rafale deal.

Kejriwal struck a non-combative note in his response: “Sir, this is not the time to indulge in politics but to fight pollution together. All the governments should work together to give people relief from pollution. Delhi government and Delhiites are doing all they can. We need your support, sir.”