The air quality in Delhi on Thursday was categorised as “severe” by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research. The ranking is the agency’s most extreme category on the index. Parts of North India have been under the grip of dense smog since Tuesday because of worsening air pollution.

On its website, the agency, better known as Safar, said the concentrations of PM 2.5 and PM 10 (particulate matter that are 10 or less than 10 and 2.5 or less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) rose alarmingly. Levels of PM 2.5 in Delhi on Thursday was at 599, while that of PM 10 was at 955, both in the severe category.

The agency has predicted that the levels of PM 10 and PM 2.5 on Friday will also be “severe” at 669 and 419. Safar predicted that the air quality in Delhi would get better in three days, but is not likely to improve beyond the “very poor” category.

As a result of the dense smog, at least 41 trains to Delhi have been delayed, 10 were cancelled and nine were rescheduled on Thursday, ANI reported. Flight services have also taken a hit.

Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal on Thursday pulled up the Delhi government for the rising levels of pollution in the Capital. “You have made a mess of Delhi,” it said, according to News18. “Why didn’t you issue any direction for shutting down polluting industries and construction...Go to the hospital and see the number of patients that are being admitted.”

It further questioned the Aam Aadmi Party-led government on the steps it has taken to control the burning of garbage over the last week. It also criticised the neighbouring states for not taking action against stubble burning in the state. “It is shameful for all the parties in this matter,” it added.

The tribunal banned industrial activities from being carried out in Delhi until its next hearing on November 14. It also directed that an officer should be deputed by all public authorities to monitor activities contributing to pollution, ANI reported.

Air quality across Indian cities on Wednesday.
Air quality across Indian cities on Wednesday.

In an advisory issued on Wednesday, the Delhi government had urged residents to use car pools and public transport. It asked people to avoid going for a walk early in the morning or late in the evening and advised to keep children indoors.

“If you feel irritation in the throat and nose, take steam and do salt water gargles. Drink plenty of warm water and maintain good hydration,” the Delhi government said in the advisory. It further advised people to immediately go to a medical facility if they felt they had breathing problems or palpitations.

While the Delhi government has announced that all schools in the Capital will remain closed till Sunday, the Punjab government also asked schools to remain shut till Saturday.

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority will take a decision on the implementation of odd-even car rationing scheme on Thursday, Hindustan Times reported. Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Wednesday had directed the Transport Department to begin preparations to enforce the odd-even scheme in the city.

The odd-even scheme prohibits vehicles from plying on roads based on the last digit of their registration numbers. Only vehicles with numbers ending with an odd digit can ply on odd dates, while the others are allowed only on even dates. However, all cars are allowed to ply on Sundays.