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National Capital trapped in smog as world urged to act on climate change

Delhi’s air quality has dipped to dangerous levels, but no advisories have as yet been issued by the government. On Tuesday evening, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the capital was at a “very poor” level, touching the 356 mark.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) defines an AQI between levels 0-50 as “good” quality of air, 51-100 as “satisfactory”, 301-400 means “very poor” and 401-500 is “severe”.

The CPCB says PM 2.5 and PM 10 (particulate matter suspended in air with diameters 2.5 and 10 micrometers) are the “prominent” pollutants for Delhi’s air.

As the world leaders gathered in Paris for a crucial climate change summit, urging nations to act against climate change, the woes of Delhiites fighting smog are likely to continue for the coming week.

“The easterly winds coming towards the city can carry huge moisture. This, along with the pollutants in the air, contribute to smog,” India Meteorological Department (IMD) director B P Yadav said.
Traces of rain was reported in some parts of the city on Tuesday and the Met department forecasts more foggy days Saturday onwards.

Even prior to Diwali, environmentalists expected the air quality to dip to “alarming” levels, and attributed it to crop burning which took place in the northern belt of the country, and carbon emissions from outdated trucks and vehicles.

“During winters, the cool winds trap pollutants in the air close to the earth. It is an issue Delhi has been experiencing. It requires preparedness and progressive action to fight these pollutants,” Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director for research and advocacy at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), told IANS.

Roychowdhury said India “does not have very good forecasting systems”, to precisely predict how bad the air could get in the coming days, but said over the previous years’ experience, levels could hit some lows. Air of a “very poor” quality can cause “respiratory illness on prolonged exposure”, the CPCB says.

According to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM 2.5, which can cause harm to humans, has been found at 189 units, as against the prescribed normal of 60 units — three times more than normal. 
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