As winter descends upon the national capital, Delhi is grappling with the severe air pollution crisis. The fourth and final phase of the Centre's Graded Action Response Plan (GRAP) has been implemented, introducing strict measures to combat the deteriorating air quality. On Monday morning, the city's air quality was rated as 'Severe' with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 436, as reported by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The city remains shrouded in haze, exacerbating the air quality concerns. Additionally, SAFAR India data recorded an even worse 'Severe Plus' category with an AQI of 471 at 7 a.m.
The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), a statutory body responsible for devising strategies to combat pollution in the region, has called on Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) states to enforce a series of emergency measures. This concern extends beyond Delhi, affecting regions in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Let's delve into the key developments surrounding the escalating air pollution levels and the actions being taken to address this pressing issue.
Dismal Air Quality Across Delhi
Several areas in Delhi have reported AQI values worse than the city's average on Monday. Bawana's AQI stood at 478, Jahangirpuri recorded an AQI of 475, and Wazirpur's air quality reached an alarming AQI of 482, according to CPCB data.
To address the mounting pollution and ensure the strict implementation of GRAP-4, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai has convened a meeting of all relevant departments.
Stubble Burning Worsens Air Quality
Punjab has been grappling with a surge in farm fires, reporting 3,230 incidents on a single day, marking the highest for this season. The total number of stubble-burning incidents in Punjab this season has now reached 17,403, as per data from the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre. Disturbingly, farm fires in November constitute 56 per cent of the total stubble-burning incidents for this season. In the state, Bathinda recorded an AQI of 285, Mandi Gobindgarh had an AQI of 242, Khanna recorded an AQI of 241, Patiala's AQI stood at 229, and Ludhiana recorded an AQI of 228, according to CPCB data.
In Haryana, Gurugram registered an AQI of 358 (considered 'Inferior' category), Ambala had 'Moderate' air quality with an AQI of 164, while Bhiwani reported 'Very Poor' air with an AQI of 343. Faridabad's air quality reached 'Severe Plus' as its AQI crossed the 500-mark on Monday morning. Kaithal's air quality also fell into the 'Very Poor' category with an AQI of 360.
Measures Taken to Mitigate the Crisis
In light of the worsening air quality, the Gurugram District Commissioner has instructed Residents Welfare Associations (RWAs) to install sprinklers and implement other pollution-controlling measures. People are advised to venture out only when necessary and encouraged to use public transport and bicycles.
Uttar Pradesh is facing a similar air quality crisis, with Noida reporting an AQI of 406, and Greater Noida's air quality rating even worse at AQI 449 ('Very Poor' category). Lalbagh in Lucknow recorded 'Very Poor' air quality with an AQI of 342, and Meerut's AQI stood at 376, also categorized as 'Very Poor.'
Noida authorities have taken the initiative to deploy water tankers across the region, spraying water to reduce pollutants in the air. In Ghaziabad, Indirapuram's AQI was recorded at 339 ('Inferior' category), while Loni's air quality plummeted to an alarming AQI of 490 ('Severe Plus'), as per CPCB data.
Mumbai's air quality was comparatively better, with an AQI of 239 ('Poor' category) in the Bandra Kurla region and an AQI of 123 in Borivali East.
Fighting the Rising Pollution Levels
The air quality across Delhi-NCR and its neighbouring states continues to deteriorate, with most regions reporting 'Very Poor' air quality. To combat this crisis, the final and fourth stage of the Centre's Graded Action Response Plan (GRAP) has been enforced. The GRAP categorizes actions into four stages: Stage I - 'Poor' (AQI 201-300); Stage II - 'Very Poor' (AQI 301-400); Stage III - 'Severe' (AQI 401-450); and Stage IV - 'Severe Plus' (AQI above 450).
The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change has recommended that NCR State Governments and the Delhi Government discontinue physical classes for students in classes VI to IX and class XI. Instead, they are advised to conduct lessons online to protect students from the harmful effects of air pollution. Additionally, state governments are urged to consider the closure of colleges and educational institutions to safeguard students and staff from the health risks associated with poor air quality.
In light of the alarming situation, doctors have advised residents in Delhi, as well as in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab, to stay indoors and venture out only when necessary. In Delhi, a work-from-home arrangement has been recommended for 50 per cent of employees. State governments are also deploying sprinklers to reduce the presence of pollutants in the air.
As the winter season progresses, the battle against worsening air quality in Delhi and its neighbouring regions intensifies. All stakeholders must come together and take necessary actions to protect the health and well-being of the residents.
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