New Delhi back under blanket of smog

NEW DELHI, 3 Nov 2022:

The Indian capital today woke up under a blanket of smog, with New Delhi recording its worst air quality so far this year – while the authorities imposed measures to tackle the emergency and urged the people to carpool or use public transport.

The air quality index (AQI) remained in the “severe” category at above 400 – on a scale having a maximum of 500 points – levels of pollution that can affect even healthy people and severely affect people with respiratory diseases.

The concentration of PM2.5 particles in the air reached 278 micrograms per cubic metre in the south of the city, around the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, according to data from the government’s Pollution Control Committee.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a maximum daily exposure for PM 2.5 – particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns and which can enter the blood stream through the lungs due to its small size – at less than 15 micrograms per cubic metre.

The increase in pollution to toxic levels in recent days has led the authorities to impose measures such as a temporary ban on construction and demolition activities.

The alarming deterioration in New Delhi’s air quality is common at this time of year, when a number of factors coincide – such as the arrival of winter and the decrease in wind velocity that prevent the dispersal of pollutants – amid Diwali fireworks.

The toxic air comprises of vehicle emissions, building dust, particles originating from burning stubble in agricultural areas and the constant burning of solid waste in this city of 20 million inhabitants.

Earlier this week, a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed that cars were one of the main causes of air pollution in New Delhi, although surrounding regions contributed 60% of its total pollution.

The CSE denounced the “inadequate” public transport in the Indian capital and the lack of measures to reduce the number of cars on the roads, while stressing on the need to check sources of pollution throughout the region.