Delhi's air quality improves to 'severe'

'Hazardous' air pollution in India's capital prompts emergency measures

Delhi's air quality Wednesday oscillated between "poor" and "very poor" categories as authorities warned of severe deterioration of air quality even if "partial toxic crackers" are burned compared to previous year.

On Monday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded to be "severe" at 434 for Delhi.

Another official said if the air quality continues to remain in the "severe" category for 48 hours, they would consider implementing more regulations.

As cooler air traps pollutants close to the ground, Delhi's levels of PM2.5 - particles so tiny they can enter the lungs and bloodstream - often soar to beyond 30 times the safe limit.

AQI between 0-50 is considered "good", 51-100 "satisfactory", 101-200 "moderate", 201-300 "poor", 301-400 "very poor" and 401-500 "severe".

Twenty-five areas in Delhi recorded "very poor" quality air, while eight areas recorded "poor" air quality.

Even as the Centre said factors like weather, wind speed and stubble burning in states were not under its control but it was making efforts to improve the air quality, opposition Congress accused the NDA and AAP governments of putting Delhittes at the risk of "death by breath".

Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain on Tuesday appealed to residents of the national capital to celebrate a crackers-free Diwali in order to reduce air pollution.

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The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said the prevailing meteorological conditions are less favourable for dispersal of pollutants for the next two days due to low wind speed.

Air quality will be "bad" on November 8 even if "partial toxic crackers" are burned compared to previous year, the Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said.

According to SAFAR, the PM levels would be very poor on Thursday, with the PM10 level forecast to be 358 micrograms per cubic metre and the PM2.5 level at 210 micrograms per cubic metre.

The World Health Organization estimates poor air quality kills more than a million residents of India every year, and says New Delhi has the worst air of any major city in the world.

"The moisture intrusion over Delhi and surrounding regions due to the westerlies disturbances will increase with effect from November 4 to enhanced holding capacity of atmosphere resulting in increase in PM2.5 levels", the SAFAR website said. Pollution levels expected to be higher on Thursday.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has directed the state pollution control bodies of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi to start criminal prosecution against agencies or individuals who do not comply with directives to check air pollution.

"The protesters held placards displaying messages like "Delhi air is poisonous", "breathing is killing me", "#My Right to Breathe" and "Unbreathable India" outside the Indira Pariyavaran Bhawan here.

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