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Delhi Struggles to Breathe as Air Pollution Reaches 'Severe' Category, Worst This Season

Poor visibilty at Mahamaya flyover due to air pollution. (News18)

Poor visibilty at Mahamaya flyover due to air pollution. (News18)

The neighbouring cities of Faridabad (462), Ghaziabad (483), Noida (476), Greater Noida (482), and Gurugram (475) also recorded severe air quality. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered "good", 51 and 100 "satisfactory", 101 and 200 "moderate", 201 and 300 "poor", 301 and 400 "very poor", and 401 and 500 "severe".

The air condition of the capital seems to be headed towards a worrying trend, after an AQI of 484 was registered in Anand Vihar on Monday, the worst reading this season. The average air quality index (AQI) is registered at 459. At PM 2.5, thick smog was witnessed in the surrounding areas, visuals show.

Delhi's Akshardham Temple was also engulfed in smog, ANI reports. The capital's air quality has remained severe for the fifth consecutive day, with calm wind speed exacerbating the effect of stubble burning. The city's average air quality index (AQI) stood at 469 at 9 am. Its 24-hour average AQI was 416 on Sunday, 427 on Saturday, 406 on Friday and 450 on Thursday, the highest since November 15 last year, when it was 458.

The neighbouring cities of Faridabad (462), Ghaziabad (483), Noida (476), Greater Noida (482), and Gurugram (475) also recorded severe air quality. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered "good", 51 and 100 "satisfactory", 101 and 200 "moderate", 201 and 300 "poor", 301 and 400 "very poor", and 401 and 500 "severe".

PM10 levels in Delhi-NCR stood at 575 microgram per cubic meter (g/m3) at 9 am, the highest since November 15 last year, when it was 637 g/m3, according to CPCB data. PM10 levels below 100 g/m3 are considered safe in India. PM10 is particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers and is inhalable into the lungs. These particles include dust, pollen and mold spores.

The levels of PM2.5 finer particles which can even enter the bloodstream were 366 g/m3 at 9 am. PM2.5 levels up to 60 g/m3 are considered safe. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the wind speed was 3 to 4 kilometres per hour in the morning and the minimum temperature 10 degrees Celsius. Calm winds and low temperatures trap pollutants close to the ground, while favourable wind speed helps in their dispersion.

The central government's Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi said a significant improvement in air quality is not likely owing to slow wind speed, particularly during night time, and contribution from farm fires. The farm fire count over Punjab remains very high which is likely to impact the air quality of Delhi-NCR and other parts of northwest India, it said.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor, SAFAR, said surface winds have become calm and are predicted to remain so for the next two days. This is a major factor due to which no quick recovery is expected unless a drastic reduction in fire counts takes place, it said. SAFAR said the share of stubble burning in Delhi's PM2.5 pollution was 29 percent on Sunday.

It was 42 percent on Thursday, the maximum this season so far. Last year, the stubble contribution to Delhi's pollution had peaked to 44 percent on November 1, according to SAFAR data.

Meanwhile, the National Capital recorded its biggest single-day jump of 7,745 coronavirus cases on Sunday, with the positivity rate increasing to 15.26 per cent amid the festive season and rising pollution, the health department said. The new infections, which took the national capital's tally to 4,38,529, came out of 50,754 tests conducted the previous day, according to a health bulletin. There are 41,857 active cases in the city, the bulletin said. Seventy-seven more fatalities took the death toll to 6,989, it said.

As air quality worsens, Delhi Police has been active against illegal firecrackers being sold in the capital. Police arrested seven people and seized around 600 kilograms of firecrackers being sold illegally from their possession, officials said on Sunday. Ahead of Diwali, the Delhi government had on Thursday decided to ban firecrackers, including green crackers, in the city till November 30 to combat pollution amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city.

Till Sunday, cases were registered against seven people for illegally selling crackers in the national capital, police said. "Police recovered 593.224 kg of firecrackers and arrested seven people. Also, eight cases were registered in connection with bursting of crackers. One person was arrested and 1 kg of fireworks were recovered from him," Additional PRO of Delhi Police Anil Mittal said. All licences issued for sale of firecrackers have been suspended and further action will be taken on NGT directions, he said.

(With inputs from PTI)


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