Delhiites on Thursday inhaled severely poor quality air which had respirable pollutants up to nine times above the safe limit at certain places even as authorities warned of a "critically polluted" period ahead.

Anand Vihar, the city's pollution hotspot, had PM 1O (suspended particulate matter) at over 962 micrograms per cubic metre at 2 PM, as against the safe limit of 100, days ahead of Diwali, which is expected to worsen the situation.

The figure was recorded by Delhi Pollution Control Committee's (DPCC) real-time air quality monitor.

Its AQI (air quality index) remained severe through the day, hitting 500 (maximum limit) at many points. Even PM 2.5, finer and deadlier pollutants, was several times above the prescribed limit.

Even residential areas such as Mandir Marg and R K Puram had AQI in the severe category as per the monitoring stations of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The possible health impacts of severe AQI says that it affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases. These respirable pollutants not only harm the respiratory system but also enter the bloodstream.

Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain held a meeting on the pollution situation. Later, he addressed a public awareness event against firecrackers at Conanught Place while AAP MLA Alka Lamba led an anti-cracker drive at Chandni Chowk.

A senior government official said Chinese firecrackers were being traded in many areas such as Sadar Bazar, INA, Sarojini Nagar and Jheel and four crack teams have been asked to focus on these areas and seize the banned products.

"Ambient air is influenced heavily by activities such as agriculture burning, industrial emission, operation of more than 4000 brick kilns and massive ongoing construction activities.

"Major farm residue fire have been recently reported in Punjab and Haryana. Delhi being on down-wind direction has been impacted severely. Due to this fact, the city may face critically polluted period during the coming days," a governmen.

Centre's System of Air Quality & Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) had 24-hour average of PM 2.5 and PM 10 at 211 and 370 micrograms per cubic metre respectively.

It forecast that the parameters will turn worse in the next three days provided meteorological conditions remain the same.
As temperature falls, lower colder layers of atmosphere do not permit easy dissipation of particulate matter resulting in heightened air pollution levels in the National Capital Region.

"In cities like Beijing, if air quality remains in this category for three consecutive days emergency measures kick in in the form of industries being temporarily shut or odd even," Anumita Roychowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment said.


Source: Oct 27, 2016, The Times of India