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Post Diwali, restrictions may rise if air quality stays 'severe'

Post Diwali, restrictions may rise if air quality stays severe

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court-appointed watchdog Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Agency is likely to impose more stringent restrictions from the day of Diwali if the air quality remains severe for the consecutive days.

Measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) are already under implementation in the Capital. Further restrictions will include shutting down of schools and ban on entry of trucks into Delhi.

"Wind speeds dropped to 15 kilometres per hour from 29 and there has been a significant jump in stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana in the past few hours," Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said.

She further said, "The public can play a critical role in making the ground level situation more transparent. But, we also need to be responsible by reducing our carbon footprint."

This can be done by "minimising use of our vehicles, using combine trips, shared transport, cycles and public transport or walking as much as possible, as personal responsibility will also make a difference", Roychowdhury added.

The CSE official also said that air pollution in Delhi is a combination of a rapid increase in pollution sources due to unplanned urbanisation and the geographical disadvantage of being landlocked, "which makes this region extremely vulnerable to winter inversion, leading to massive fall in the air quality."

Delhi has neither any clean water body nor a coastline. Moreover, the Himalayas in northern India block the path of the air flow in the winter as the wind becomes heavy and flows downwards.

Authorities also warned that crop residue burning will peak in the next few days. Adding to the fears, Indians will celebrate the festival of Diwali on Wednesday, when many members of the majority Hindu community will set off celebratory firecrackers.

The Supreme Court, last month, allowed the use of only 'green' firecrackers for Diwali to try to curb pollution. However, it was unclear how the rule would be enforced or whether there was such a thing as an 'environmentally-safe' fireworks.

"Lower winter temperatures and higher moisture, coupled with lower wind speeds, tend to trap pollutants in the atmosphere," said Roychowdhury.

Further, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said that changes in the speed and direction of wind and more stubble burning, had made the air more toxic.

Meanwhile, the sale of air purifiers has surged by 40 per cent from last year, due to increasing public awareness about the effects of pollution on health, company and industry officials said.

Sayantan Ghosh

Sayantan Ghosh

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