New Delhi: The city woke up to a thick blanket of smog this morning and the pollution levels breached the ‘hazardous’ category mark in the national capital two days before Diwali. By 4am on Monday morning, most stations in Delhi were no longer able to record the PM 2.5 levels.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) around Mandir Marg recorded PM 10 levels at 707 and PM 2.5 at 663, while PM 10 levels were 681 and 676 around Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, respectively, news agency ANI tweeted.
An AQI between 0 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'.
PM2.5 are fine particles that can penetrate the lungs and cause respiratory diseases. Visibility on the roads was low this morning, as against Sunday when air quality significantly improved due to increased wind speed and control measures implemented by the government.
"The AQI (air quality index) is predicted to be in the lower range of very poor today as the atmosphere is relatively clean," an official of the centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research or SAFAR told news agency Press Trust of India.
The cold temperature - the minimum temperature was 14.8 degrees at the Safdarjung station, a degree less than normal - resulted in pollutants being trapped at a moderate inversion layer. But SAFAR warned that with temperatures likely to dip further, the inversion layer would get closer to the surface and further worsen air quality.
What is the inversion effect?
In summer, air in the lower parts of the atmosphere is lighter and rises upwards, carrying pollutants from the ground and mixing them with cleaner air. During winters, the air nearer the surface of the earth is dense and cooler. This dense layer of cool air, laden with pollutants is trapped by the warm air above it. This is called winter inversion and as a result, the pollutants don't have enough space to get dispersed.
Meanwhile, schools in Delhi have moved the morning assembly of students indoors and has made it mandatory for them to wear masks during outdoor activities. Few schools in the NCR region have also started distributing gooseberries to students, which, according to health experts, minimize effects of air pollution on lungs.
The DPCC has directed the transport department and the traffic police to intensify checking of polluting vehicles and control road congestion till November 10. Construction work involving excavation is banned; no stone-crushers and hot-mix plants that generate dust can be run at this time.
D Saha, former additional director and head of air quality management division at the CPCB, said no drastic change in pollution level is anticipated as the ground level emissions are under control due to administrative and regulatory measures. "We are likely to have a clean Diwali," he said.
An aggressive 10-day-long 'Clean Air Campaign' from November 1 to 10 has also been launched to monitor and report polluting activities as well as to ensure quick action.