For nearly a month, the air quality index (AQI) kept fluctuating between “poor” and “very poor” categories. There were many “severe” days in November, the last was on November 29. But on Friday , levels of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) shot up by many times. The sky appeared hazy through the day.
According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the running 24-hour average for Mandir Marg was 276 mi crograms per cubic metres, about four times the safe standard; for Punjabi Bagh, it was 375 micrograms per cubic metres–about six times the standard and it was 363 micrograms per cubic metres at ITO, which is also nearly six times the safe level.
A few other NCR areas too witnessed very high pollution levels with Faridabad recording an average of 636 micrograms per cubic metres, which is 10 times the standard and Gurgaon at 282 micrograms per cubic metres. Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) real-time air quality monitoring indicated peaks were very high at most locations–above 500 micrograms per cubic metres. At Anand Vihar, for example, PM 2.5 concentrations were at 800 micrograms per cubic metres on early Friday . Wind speed remained less than 1 metre per second at most locations, which restricted dispersion of pollutants.
Despite high air pollution levels, Delhi doesn’t have a response mechanism in place. The graded response plan developed by CPCB is yet to be notified and enforced. “It is an emergency response system to very high air pollution levels. This demands im mediate implementation for protection of peoples’ health.SC’s order has already been published,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury , head of CSE’s clean air campaign.
In this system, when the air quality remains highly toxic for 48 hours, entry of trucks except for essential commodities will be stopped and the odd-even scheme will kick in. Apart from these, a complete ban on waste burning will be imposed, brick kilns and hot mix plants will be shut and parking fee will be hiked by three to four times, among other measures.
Any respite from this poor air quality is unlikely for the next couple of days. “Dense fog is likely to engulf parts of eastern Haryana and Delhi on Saturday and Sunday morning. The situation will start improving from Monday ,” said a Met official.