The air quality in Delhi-National Capital Region fell further in the “severe” category on Friday morning as schools remained closed for the second straight day. Air this bad affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. The agency reported an Air Quality Index of 463 at 2 pm, same as the reading on Thursday evening.
“Partly cloudy sky, too, is adding to the low visibility which was 600-800 metres in the city on Thursday,” an unidentified Met department official told The Times of India. “From Friday evening, however, wind speed is expected to pick up. On November 16-17, 20-25 km per hour surface winds are expected and the air quality will improve.”
While the pollution control board uses 24-hour average data, the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ SAFAR, or System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research reports real-time figures. It recorded an AQI reading on 552 at 2.55 pm. The Central Pollution Control Board index is typically lower than that of SAFAR in cases of extreme pollution because it averages values for 24 hours, and caps hourly indices at 500 even if they are of a higher value.
The air quality in North India has worsened since the last week of October. Earlier this month, a public health emergency was declared as the air quality plummeted to hazardous levels. Several students appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, on the occasion of Children’s Day, to take steps to ensure they breathe clean air.
The Supreme Court has also stepped in, criticising authorities for failing to implement anti-pollution measures. The Delhi government has implemented an odd-even scheme for vehicles. It is scheduled to end on Friday.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said a decision on extending the scheme will be taken on Monday, November 18, the Hindustan Times reported. “It would only reduce air pollution generated from local sources,” he told reporters. “If there are only 15 lakh vehicles instead of 30 lakh on the roads, it would make a difference.” However, he said that the main source of pollution was not in Delhi – an implicit reference to stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said that the Centre was very serious about air pollution in Delhi, ANI reported. He added that cooperation of all agencies was required to combat the menace.
A meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Urban Development, scheduled for 11 am, was postponed because three commissioners of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the vice-chairperson of Delhi Development Authority, and the secretary and joint secretary of environment did not attend it. The committee has taken a serious note of the absence of the officers.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Delhi government and the Central Pollution Control Board to provide two sets of data on the Air Quality Index in the national Capital from this year and 2018. The court also ordered the Centre to examine the feasibility of using hydrogen-based fuel technology to tackle air pollution.
Last week, the court had pulled up the Centre and the Delhi government for their inaction on the air pollution in the national Capital. It also castigated the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for failing to curb stubble burning, which is contributing to toxification of the air.