January 19, 2019

Fog disrupts air, rail traffic in Delhi; air quality ‘severe’

27 December 2018, 11:56 | Ross Houston

A residential building shrouded in smog in New Delhi on Tuesday | Altaf Hussain Reuters

Air pollution Delhi will implement odd-even scheme whenever required says CM Arvind Kejriwal

The pollution prompted chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday to announce that the Delhi government will, if needed, bring back the controversial odd-even rule that allows only half of Delhi's private cars to run on alternate days. The remarks came a day after the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) ordered shutting down of industries and construction activities in Delhi-NCR till December 26 due to high pollution levels.

According to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), the overall air quality index (AQI) in Delhi was recorded at 385 till 8 am, which fall in the "very poor" category.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the air quality index value in Delhi-NCR on Tuesday was at 408 with major air pollutants PM 2.5 and PM 10 at 266 and 405, respectively, on an average. In the Wazirpur area, the air quality also dipped to the severe category with 400. "Approval of new sections of the Delhi Metro has also been delayed for four years and was done only under pressure from the Centre and the BJP Opposition", Mr. Gupta claimed.

In a letter to Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Dev, Lal also directed him to ban all construction activities in the national capital, Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Noida till Wednesday.

The air quality levels have worsened in the national capital region for the fourth consecutive day and the alarming situation could prompt the return of the odd-even vehicle scheme.

The city is facing its highest pollution level since Diwali. "We are making all efforts on our part", he said.

The apparent lack of concern about the toxic air among ordinary folk gives federal and local politicians the cover they need for failing to address the problem, say pollution activists and social scientists.

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According to experts, when the air pollution is "severe", even healthy people find it hard to breathe and doctors advise physical activity to be kept at a minimum.

In some parts of Delhi, pollution levels hit 654 on Monday, among the worst recorded this year, and visibility in some parts of the city was just 200 metres, the weather department said.

The overall PM2.5 level - fine particulate matter in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometer - was recorded at 407 and the PM10 level at 581, the CPCB said.

"The air quality will further improve a few notches by tomorrow as good wind speed will continue to disperse pollutants faster than that of accumulation due to colder condition and fog".

He asked all the stakeholder departments and agencies to remain prepared to take mandated actions under the "very poor" and the "severe/ severe plus" categories of air quality index in Delhi.

The advisory also recommended frequent wet mopping and using masks known as N-95 or P-100 respirators only for outdoor activities.

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