Delhi Air Quality Index Improves To 407, But Pollution Remains "Severe"

Delhi Air Quality: The Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority has declared a public health emergency across the National Capital Region with pollution levels entering the "emergency" category for the first time since January

Delhi Air Quality: Arvind Kejriwal has blamed stubble burning in Haryana, Punjab for the pollution

Highlights

  • Delhi air quality improved slightly today with increase in wind speeds
  • Scattered rain forecast in Punjab, Haryana could reduce pollution levels
  • Pollution control body EPCA has declared a public health emergency
New Delhi:

Pollution levels in parts of Delhi and the national capital dropped this morning following a slight increase in wind speeds. Overall air pollution levels remain "severe", with the Air Quality Index (AQI) measuring 407 at 10 am, as per data released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). In more good news for struggling residents of the city state, weather forecasts call for gusts of wind reaching 25 kilometres per hour between Sunday and Tuesday. According to news agency PTI, scattered rainfall is also expected in Punjab and Haryana, which will help in reduce the polluting spread and effect of stubble burning by farmers in those states.

On Friday the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) declared a public health emergency across the National Capital Region after pollution levels entered into "emergency" category for the first time since January. A reading at 4 pm on Friday showed an overall AQI of 496.

The agency had advised people to refrain from exercising in the open until further notice and encouraged the wearing of breathing masks when venturing outdoors. It also shut down all construction activity till Tuesday and banned the bursting of firecrackers during the winter. In addition, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also directed all schools to be shut till Tuesday and confirmed the "odd-even" scheme would come into effect from Monday.

Delhi air quality has plummeted post-Diwali, which Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said was the "lowest in five years". According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), Delhi recorded an AQI of 412 on Friday morning, which fell in the "very severe" category.

Mr Kejriwal, who blamed the governments of Haryana and Punjab for "forcing farmers to burn stubble" that led to the problem, has described the city as a "gas chamber".

Data from SAFAR shows that stubble burning in those two states contributed 46 per cent of the haze and air pollution in Delhi-NCR on Friday alone; the highest so far this year.

"The effective stubble fire counts of northwestern India (Haryana and Punjab) is showing an increasing trend and on its peak value of this year (3,178) which has increased its share significantly to 46 per cent," a SAFAR official was quoted in a report by news agency IANS.

That figure was 24 per cent on Thursday and 35 per cent on Wednesday. In addition, according to SAFAR data gathered between Tuesday and Wednesday, the number of fires had doubled in a 48-hour period - from 1,200 to 2,700.

On Friday Mr Kejriwal urged school students to write to "Captain uncle and Khattar uncle", referring to Captain Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana, respectively. "Please write letters to Captain uncle and Khattar uncle and say, 'Please think about our health'," he said while distributing breathing masks.

However, both Captain Amarinder Singh and Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar have hit back at Arvind Kejriwal's claims, with the Congress leader calling the Delhi Chief Minister a "liar" and Mr Javadekar accusing him of playing blame-games over pollution levels.

Delhi is one of the world's most polluted cities and each winter, seasonal crop stubble burning, dense cloud cover and smoke from millions of Diwali firecrackers turn its skies a putrid yellow.

With input from IANS, ANI, PTI