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Delhi facing worst smog in 17 years, says CSE

The national Capital is facing the worst smog in 17 years, a green body said on Thursday while asking the Delhi government to issue health alerts and convey that children should stay indoors as there is a state of health emergency due to peaking air pollution.

As visibility remained poor and the city choked due to a haze, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) asked the Delhi government to roll out stringent plans for controlling winter pollution from all sources of pollutants and issue daily health advisory to the people.

“This demands emergency response to protect the vulnerable - those who are suffering from respiratory and heart diseases and children. The government should aggressively inform all and advise them to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercises. At the same time, it should roll out stringent winter pollution control for all sources along with emergency action,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE’s air pollution and sustainable mobility teams.

CSE said that according to the Indian Meteorological Department, this is the worst smog with very poor visibility in 17 years and the Indira Gandhi International Airport recorded the worst levels of smog in 17 years on November 2, with visibility as low as 300-400 metres. It said the analysis of data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee shows that the levels of PM2.5 have increased by 62.7 per cent on November 2 as compared to that on Diwali (October 30) and the levels were 9.4 times the standard on November 2.

Similarly on the night of November 1, PM2.5 concentration had hit 548 microgramme per cubic metre (cum) — nine times the standard, while the following day, PM2.5 concentration increased to 696.25 microgramme per cum — 11.6 times the standard. According to SAFAR, PM2.5 levels are in severe category and are expected to remain in this category for more than three days. 

Environment Min to issue advisory

Terming Delhi’s smog situation a serious issue, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave on Thursday said his ministry will soon issue an advisory to the states concerned on taking up short, medium and long term measures to tackle air pollution, after holding wide consultations. 

Dave said he has asked his ministry to hold a meeting with secretaries of NCR states on Friday after which he will hold meetings with all the state environment ministers, other stakeholders like NGOs, and then the advisory will be issued. 

He said although the problem had been persistent, Diwali aggravated the situation and collective effort from each individual is needed to tackle the issue. 

“Tomorrow (on Friday) all the state secretaries have been called for a meeting. Then I will hold a meeting with ministers of concerned states and then also hold consultations with various stakeholders. Then what could be a short, medium and long term plan to tackle air pollution for Delhi, what can be done today and next year, we will discuss that and we will issue a recommendation or advisory and tell the states to implement it,” he said.

Crop burning adding to smog: NASA images

Three days after the Diwali festivities ended, the city continues to remain under a thick toxic smog, courtesy the after-effects of fire crackers (sadly, still a norm that many continue to adhere to).

According to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the pollution from the crackers was to dissipate on November 1 but wind started blowing in from the north-west regions of Punjab, Haryana and other locations.

Images released by the US space agency NASA also suggest that high levels of “fires and thermal anomalies” from regions of India and Pakistan have greatly impacted the pollution levels. The National Green Tribunal recently warned the city’s neighbours to curb their large-scale stubble burning. Meanwhile, the United States Embassy in New Delhi, after working with the Delhi government previously on containing air pollution, has already planned two timely workshops on air quality and health next week. 

In the wake of excessive pollution, a few schools in the NCR have declared holiday on Friday, while some others have suspended morning assembly and asked students to wear masks. While Tagore International School in Vasant Vihar has postponed its sports day from November to February, Shri Ram School in Gurgaon and Delhi has suspended classes till Monday and delayed timings for Classes X and XII from 10 am to 3 pm. Heritage School in Gurgaon has also suspended classes from Friday. 

Delhi govt faces NGT ire

The Delhi government on Thursday drew flak from the NGT for claiming that dengue cases have declined due to stoppage of mosquito breeding caused by rising air pollution. 

A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar asked what it had done for health of the people in the national Capital suffering under a thick smog blanket for the past three days. 

The Bench directed Chief Secretary of Delhi to file by Friday a status report explaining what preventive steps they have taken to tackle the alarming air pollution and smog level. 
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