Delhi Fights Pollution With Traffic Curbs But Farm Fires Remain Big Threat

The overall air quality index (AQI) was recorded at 488 this morning, much above the safe levels prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The deteriorating air quality has prompted doctors to raise health concerns.

New Delhi:

Delhi remains wrapped in a blanket of toxic smog with severe pollution forcing schools to suspend primary classes amid health concerns. The overall air quality index (AQI) was recorded at 488 this morning, much above the safe levels prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Some of the worst-affected areas in the city include RK Puram (466), ITO (402), Patparganj (471), and New Moti Bagh (488).

The Delhi government has extended the closure of all schools up to class 5 till November 10 in view of the increasing pollution levels. Schools up to classes 6-12 are not required to close, but can switch to online classes if they wish.

The deteriorating air quality has prompted doctors to raise health concerns, including the growing number of respiratory and eye ailments among children and the elderly.

Multiple factors contribute to this now-annual winter air pollution with vehicular emissions, smoke from stubble burning and farm fires, and low wind speed. This year pollution peaked ahead of Diwali and the wedding season, during which crackers become a pollution source.

Big Rise In Farm Fires

The rise is pollution comes with an increase in stubble burning incidents in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, showed studies by Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

Punjab yesterday reported the highest number of farm fires this season with a sudden surge in stubble burning following a relatively smoke-less October, data showed. There was a 740 percent increase in stubble burning with 1,068 farm fires - the highest in a single day this harvesting season - being recorded on Sunday. On Saturday, only 127 stubble-burning incidents were reported.

With the 3,230 fresh farm fires, the total number of stubble-burning incidents in Punjab so far this season stands at 17,403, according to Punjab Remote Sensing Centre data. The farm fires reported in November constitute 56 per cent of the total stubble-burning incidents this season, data showed, including a steep 57% jump between November 4 and 5.

Action Plan To Fight Pollution

The Centre has put the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) into effect at its highest level in Delhi and surrounding cities where the air quality has remained in the "severe plus" category.

The Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) is a set of anti-air pollution measures established by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The GRAP has four stages, with Stage IV being the most severe.

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) yesterday invoked Stage IV of the GRAP in the entire national capital region to prevent further deterioration in the air quality.

Under the new restrictions, trucks have been barred from entering Delhi unless they are carrying essential goods, providing essential services, or are powered by LNG, CNG, or electricity.

Only electric, CNG, and BS-VI diesel light commercial vehicles (LCVs) registered outside of Delhi are allowed to enter the city, except for those carrying essential goods or providing essential services.

All construction and demolition works in Delhi have been suspended, including public projects such as roads, bridges, and power lines.

The Delhi and central governments may allow public, municipal, and private offices to operate with half of their staff working from home.

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