Delhi remained severely polluted on Saturday even as the air quality improved slightly from the previous day. The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or SAFAR, showed a real-time Air Quality Index of 435 around 2.30pm. The worst air quality was recorded at Karol Bagh, with an AQI of 633, followed by Ghaziabad at 571.

However, the Central Pollution Control Board displayed a reading of 402 at 2 pm, as it calculates a 24-hour average. As the day progresses, this index reading may go up. The air quality index has been in the “severe” zone for most of the week.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered “good”, 51-100 “satisfactory”, 101-200 “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor” and 401-500 “severe”. An index above 500 falls in the “severe-plus emergency” category.

On Friday, air quality had breached emergency levels in the national capital. A public health emergency was declared in the afternoon, and construction activities were banned till November 5. Schools will also remain closed till then.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal blamed stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana for the pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region. “Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states,” he tweeted. “It is very important that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through private and government schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today. I urge all Delhiites to use them whenever needed.”

On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a two-day visit to India, also expressed concern about the air quality in Delhi, News18 reported. “We have launched Indo-German partnership for green urban mobility,” she said. “We have earmarked $1 billion towards this. We will also earmark 200 million euros to reform the bus sector in Tamil Nadu. Whoever looked at pollution in Delhi yesterday would find very good arguments to replace diesel buses with electric buses.”

Merkel also interacted with operators of electric rickshaws at the Dwarka Sector 21 metro station in the national Capital, ANI reported.

Meanwhile, India Meteorological Department official KV Singh said that wind speed in Delhi is likely to increase from Saturday. “Wind direction will change after November 6 and rainfall may also occur,” he said. “There will be relief [from pollution] once it happens.”

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