New Delhi: Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Thursday ordered stoppage of all civil construction activities across Delhi as part of emergency measures to bring down the severe dust pollution.
The air quality in Delhi remained beyond the "severe" level for the third day on Thursday, and the authorities warned that dusty conditions were likely to prevail for another 3-4 days and advised people to avoid staying outdoors for long hours. Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan directed agencies to be on "maximum" alert and take all measures to contain sources of dust as Delhi's air quality remained "severe" for the third day today.
The air quality deteriorated because of dust storms in western India, particularly Rajasthan, which increased coarser particles in the air, the Central Pollution Control Board said. PM10 level (presence of particles with a diameter less than 10mm) was beyond severe at 796 in Delhi-NCR and 830 in Delhi, leading to hazy conditions.
According to the CPCB, the air quality index (AQI) — a measurement of the concentration of toxic particulate matter in the air — at several places in Delhi remained beyond the 500-mark, with east Delhi's Anand Vihar area recording a PM10 level of 929 and PM2.5 level of 301 Thursday morning.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered "Good", 51-100 "Satisfactory", 101-200 "Moderate", 201-300 "Poor", 301-400 "Very Poor", and 401-500 "Severe".
The L-G also said that a massive afforestation drive would be conducted across Delhi from July 15 to September 15.
Experts said that this time in Delhi, pollution levels are worse than what they were during the smog episode in November last year. CPCB, however, said the pollution this season is different from the November pollution when both PM2.5 and PM10 had spiked. The current increase in pollution level is mainly due to a drastic rise in coarse particles in the air, which has caused a spike in PM10 level, it said.
A Sudhakar, member secretary, CPCB, has warned residents that pollution levels are expected to remain constant for at least three to four days, and cause discomfort or breathing difficulties. The dust storm has affected other north Indian cities as well, and flight operations have been suspended at Chandigarh airport due to poor visibility.
The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) has issued advisory that no construction activities be carried out for the next two days in districts of Haryana falling under National Capital Region.
In Uttar Pradesh, dust storms have hit various parts, leaving 15 people dead and 28 injured, since Wednesday.