Delhi's air quality deteriorated rapidly on Wednesday, reaching the 'severe' category due to a combination of unfavourable meteorological conditions and rampant pollution sources. The city's Air Quality Index (AQI) surged to 392 at 8 am, with the 24-hour average AQI soaring to 397 on Tuesday, a significant increase from 358 on Monday and 218 on Sunday.**
Toxic Haze Envelops Delhi as Air Quality Plummets
Several areas within the city, including ITO, RK Puram, Punjabi Bagh, IGI Airport, Dwarka, Patparganj, Sonia Vihar, Rohini, Nehru Nagar, and Anand Vihar, reported severe air pollution levels (AQI above 400). Neighbouring cities such as Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Greater Noida, Noida, and Faridabad also recorded very poor air quality, further exacerbating the region's environmental crisis.
Delhi Tops Global Pollution Charts
According to IQAir, a Swiss air quality monitoring company, Delhi was the most polluted city globally on Tuesday, followed by Dhaka, Lahore, and Mumbai. This grim ranking highlights the city's dire air quality situation and the urgent need for effective mitigation measures.
The Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology identified stubble-burning as contributing to 12% of Delhi's air pollution on Tuesday, with the figure expected to rise to 14% on Wednesday and drop to 6% on Thursday. Stubble burning, a prevalent practice in neighbouring states during the harvest season, releases harmful pollutants that exacerbate air quality in Delhi.
GRAP Measures Extended as Authorities Scramble for Solutions
The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) stated that stringent measures, including construction ban restrictions on polluting trucks entering the capital, would continue under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) until further notice. While these measures are necessary to curb emissions, they also highlight the severity of the situation and the need for long-term solutions.
Health Experts Warn of Severe Health Implications
Doctors warn that prolonged exposure to Delhi's polluted air is equivalent to smoking about 10 cigarettes a day and can lead to or worsen respiratory issues like asthma, Bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The prolonged exposure to hazardous air poses a serious threat to the health of Delhi's residents.
The hazardous air quality levels in Delhi-NCR during winter are attributed to unfavourable meteorological conditions, vehicular emissions, paddy-straw burning, firecrackers, and other local pollution sources. The combination of these factors creates a toxic cocktail that chokes the city during the winter months.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee analysis indicates that the city experiences peak pollution from November 1 to 15, coinciding with increased stubble-burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana. This highlights the need for targeted measures to address stubble burning during this critical period.
Delhi's Air Quality Among Worst in the World
Delhi's air quality is among the worst in the world's capital cities, with a report by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago in August stating that air pollution is shortening lives by almost 12 years in Delhi. This alarming statistic underscores the urgency of addressing the city's air pollution crisis.
Special Campaign Launched to Tackle Air Pollution
Sixty mobile anti-smog guns have been deployed at pollution hotspots in an attempt to mitigate the severe air quality. Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Tuesday announced the start of a special campaign to curb air pollution. The development comes a day after Deepavali firecrackers caused a toxic haze to set over the national capital.
The Environment Minister also announced a mega campaign of sprinkling water on the roads of Delhi to reduce dust particles and improve air quality. While these measures provide temporary relief, they address only the symptoms and not the root causes of the problem.
City Struggles to Find Effective Solutions
Despite numerous initiatives and policies, Delhi continues to grapple with severe air pollution, leaving its residents battling for clean air. The city's struggle highlights the complexity of the issue and the need for a comprehensive approach that tackles all contributing factors.