The air quality in Delhi and the National Capital Region continued to remain in the “severe category” on Saturday despite improving slightly, reported PTI.

Gufran Beig, a scientist at System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research Institute, told PTI that the pollution level was slowly reducing due to “the dispersion of pollutants after local winds picked up speed [on Friday], which in turn improved the air quality”.

According to Central Pollution Control Board’s data, the level of PM 10 particles – particulate matter smaller than 10 microns in size – was 534.9 micrograms per cubic metre at 3 pm in the region, down from 784.2 micrograms per cubic metre the day before. This falls under the severe category on the Air Quality Index.

The level of PM 2.5 particles was 123.9 micrograms per cubic metre at 3 pm, which comes under the “very poor” category on the index. It was 186.6 micrograms per cubic metre on Friday noon.

Visibility remained poor in the region as dust and haze enveloped the city. The New Delhi Municipal Council has kept water sprinklers on standby in an effort to manage the dust if required, reported NDTV.

The air quality in Delhi deteriorated beyond the severe level on Wednesday due to a ground-level dust storm in western India. The following day, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal ordered all civil construction activities across the Capital to be stopped till Sunday as part of emergency measures to reduce dust pollution.

On Friday, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan urged the residents of Delhi to “avoid unnecessary exposure” while Baijal met state Environment Minister Imran Hussaain and other officials to discuss the situation.

Various parts of North India apart from Delhi have faced sandstorms in recent days and a thick dusty haze has enveloped Delhi and nearby towns since Tuesday. Chandigarh airport cancelled 11 flights on Friday because of poor visibility, a day after it cancelled suspended all flight operations because of a dust storm.