An action plan to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region was enforced on Tuesday as the region’s overall air quality slipped to “very poor” levels. The plan includes a ban on diesel generator sets, and intensified vacuum and water-cleaning of roads.

The concentration of particulate matter – PM 10 and PM 2.5 – shot up to twice the safe limit on Tuesday. According to Central Pollution Control Board data, PM 10 was recorded 263ug/m3 while PM 2.5 was 120ug/m3. The permissible standards for PM 10 and PM 2.5 are 100 and 60, respectively.

The overall air quality index in Delhi stood at 270 at 4 pm on Tuesday while it was 316 in Ghaziabad and 308 in Greater Noida. An Air Quality Index reading from zero to 50 is considered to be good, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 is considered to be moderate, a reading between 201 to 300 is poor, 301-400 is considered “very poor” and air quality between 401-500 is severe.

“There has been a rise in PM 10 levels because of dust emissions,” Bhure Lal, chairperson of the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, told Hindustan Times. “Road dust and open storage of construction material are the major factors contributing to high PM 10 levels. We have found huge amount of dust in the air in a series of inspections.”

The Delhi government on Tuesday also released an image by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that showed stubble burning in adjoining states. Stubble burning is a post-harvest practice aimed at clearing fields. On September 25, reports said there had been at least 117 incidents of stubble burning in Punjab in two days since the start of the harvesting season.

“The image clearly demonstrates stubble burning points in Punjab and Haryana, along with other areas,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement, according to News18. “Wind pattern forecast and variation in concentration of particulate matter charts are also being released. The image and charts are self explanatory.”

However, the images indicated a marked reduction in instances of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana as compared to previous years. The effect from stubble burning to PM 2.5 level in Delhi was 5% on Tuesday, which was lower than 9% on Sunday, said government-run monitoring agency System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or SAFAR.

The India Meteorological Department, however, said that Delhi’s air quality may improve due to changing weather conditions. “A fresh western disturbance may impact the Western Himalayan region from October 18,” Kuldeep Srivastava, a senior scientist with the department, told PTI. “It may also enhance the wind speed, which will help disperse pollutants.”

The Capital sees a massive rise in pollution during this time of the year, which makes the air in the region extremely toxic. Delhi’s air quality slipped to the “poor category” for the first time this season on October 10, days after the city breathed the cleanest air in five years.

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