Delhi’s air quality turned ‘severe’ on October 30, 2018, for the first time this season, with stubble burning intensifying in neighbouring states, authorities said. The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) was 401, falling in the ‘severe’ category, the highest this season, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) officials said. The centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) recorded the AQI at 410.
An official said that the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) is even considering regulating the use of private vehicles, in the wake of an alarming increase in air pollution in Delhi. There are a total of 35 lakh private vehicles in Delhi-NCR. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) issued directions, which also included intensifying patrolling in ‘hot spots’ with ‘no tolerance for visibly polluting vehicles’, to government agencies, following the orders from the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA.
In 2016, the odd-even scheme was enforced twice – during January 1-15 and April 15-30 in the city, when vehicles having odd and even numbers were allowed to ply on alternate days.
The EPCA had, earlier, accepted the recommendation of a CPCB-led task force for the period between November 1 to 10, 2018, when further deterioration of air is expected, due to the festival season and stubble burning in neighbouring states.
The DPCC order includes halt of all construction activities involving excavation and civil construction, to remain closed in Delhi and other NCR districts from November 1-10, besides closure of all stone crushers and hot mix plants generating dust pollution in Delhi and NCR districts. All industries using coal and biomass as fuel (excluding thermal and waste to energy plants), will remain closed in Delhi and NCR districts, from November 4-10, 2018.
The DPCC has directed the transport department and traffic police to intensify checking of polluting vehicles and control travel congestion in Delhi and other NCR districts, during November 1-10, 2018. Following the direction from the EPCA, the DPCC notified the Delhi Development Authority, Navratna Central Public Sector, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Delhi Transport Corporation, National Highways Authority of India, India Meteorological Department, New Delhi Municipal Council, South Delhi Municipal Council, East Delhi Municipal Council and the Public Works Department, to enforce these measures.
“There should be no tolerance for visibly polluting vehicles. This will require stringent monitoring and on spot fines for visibly polluting vehicles,” the DPCC said in its direction. The EPCA has also asked the DPCC to publish in newspapers, advisories for the public, recommending them to reduce outdoor activities and minimise their travel using private vehicles, as much as possible, the official said.
The national capital has been grappling with dangerous levels of pollution for the last two weeks. Eighteen areas in Delhi recorded ‘severe’ air quality with the highest AQI at 4 PM recorded at Anand Vihar at 467, according to a data by the CPCB. Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Noida recorded ‘severe’ air pollution, crossing the AQI of 400. Greater Noida’s air is also on the brink of turning severe, the data said.
SAFAR has attributed the spike to ‘heavy stubble burning in the last 24 hours and calm winds’. About 28 per cent of pollution by PM2.5 (presence of particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers) on, October 30, 2018, was caused due to regional factors like stubble burning, SAFAR officials said. The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) also spotted a large number of biomass fire spots, through satellite imageries in neighbouring states of Delhi.
SAFAR also issued a health advisory for the public, asking Delhiites to not to rely on dust masks for protection. The agency has advised Delhiites to avoid all outdoor activities and give a miss to morning walks. “If the room has windows, close them. If the air-conditioner provides a fresh air intake option, then, choose it. Avoid burning anything such as wood, candle or even an incense,” it said. The advisory also recommended frequent wet mopping and using masks known as N-95 or P-100 respirators, only for outdoor activities.
Meanwhile, on the issue of firecrackers, the Environment Ministry said that the directions of the Supreme Court shall be followed strictly in Delhi and NCR. “Timings and locations, as envisaged in the Supreme Court’s order for bursting of firecrackers, would be strictly adhered to. Further only eco-friendly fire crackers would be sold, after proper authorisation has been obtained from the Petroleum and Safety Organisation (PESO),” the ministry said in a statement.
Any other kind of firecrackers would not be permitted to be sold in the NCR, as per the order of the Supreme Court. The Delhi Police and the DMs of Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad were requested to ensure that these measures were strictly implemented by them in their respective areas, it added. About 44 joint teams will be deployed from November 1, 2018, by the Delhi government to check air pollution in the national capital. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a tweet, said his government was doing its ‘best to check pollution’.