Delhi's air quality drops to 'very poor', pollution shoots to a four-month high

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 25, 2018, 08.11 AM(IST)

Traffic policemen wear face masks to protect themselves from Delhi's pollution.  Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

The World Health Organization said this year India was home to the world’s 14 most polluted cities, with Delhi ranked sixth. 

The air quality of Delhi and neighbouring areas dipped to 'very poor' as average Air Quality Index (AQI) hit 328 on Wednesday.

On a scale of 0–500, an AQI value between 301 and 400 indicates ‘very poor’ air quality. By 2 pm several areas in Delhi, including Anand Vihar, Mundaka, Bawana and Rohini, were reeling under ‘severe’ pollution with AQI levels breaching the 400 mark.

Pollution shot up to a four-month high enveloping the national capital in a haze due to unfavourable weather conditions.

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

The government official blamed the deterioration in air quality to a “very poor” level across much of the city on a fall in temperature and lighter wind, as both seasonal changes allow pollution to accumulate.

The official - speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation - said air quality would continue to worsen around Diwali, which falls on Nov. 7.

Pollution levels will be exacerbated as farmers in areas close to Delhi burn crop residue in preparation for new planting and people let off fireworks to mark the Diwali festival.

Stubble burning

File photo: A farmer burns the stubble in a rice field in Zirakpur in the northern state of Punjab. (Reuters Photo)

“We are heading into a deadly cocktail with Diwali and peak stubble burning time,” the official said. 

“If we come back into the ‘poor’ category of pollution, it will be a very big achievement.”     

Late last year, Delhi and a large part of northern India were covered in a toxic smog from burning crop waste and the countless firecrackers let off for Diwali, forcing authorities to shut power stations, ban construction and clamp down on garbage burning.

Pollution

Despite pressure from health experts, the government this year held off on a wholesale ban on fireworks and has faced criticism for failing to prevent farmers in states neighbouring Delhi from burning stubble. 

The World Health Organization said this year India was home to the world’s 14 most polluted cities, with Delhi ranked sixth. 

“The government has no political will and year after year we get into a narrative around pollution only in the month of October when the situation is really, really bad,” said Vimlendu Jha, an environmentalist who founded the activist group Swechha.

“Almost 320 days out of the 365, Delhi’s air quality is in poor condition but there is no conversation around it.” 

(With inputs from Reuters)