The air quality in the national capital has taken a nosedive since the beginning of November, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) surging to alarming levels, reaching as high as 700 in certain areas.
Aggravated by changing weather patterns, festive fireworks, agricultural residue burning, as well as vehicular emissions, air pollution has once again turned the region into a virtual gas chamber.
For years, Delhi has grappled with severe air pollution, particularly during the winter months. As November arrives, the situation has deteriorated further, and residents find themselves in the midst of a respiratory crisis. The AQI levels have surged, raising serious concerns about the health of the population.
According to Jugal Kishore, the head of the medicine department at Safdarjung Hospital, “We are recording a surge in the number of irritative bronchitis infections”. He advised individuals with respiratory issues to limit their outdoor activities unless absolutely necessary.
An immigrant student in Delhi, Ananyaa Saha, reported to TheSocialTalks - “I could normally see aeroplanes from my PG window… now I can’t. It’s all really hazy and it can sometimes be hard to breathe at night.”
“Children all around me are bursting firecrackers as if air pollution doesn’t exist. There was a lot of fireworks during Karwa Chauth, which is unusual,” she added.
Data from the Central Pollution Control Board revealed that Delhi's air quality index has increased by over 200 points since October 27. The most recent peak of 471 on November 3 follows the previous high recorded on November 12, 2021. While some improvement has been observed, a thick toxic haze continues to blanket the national capital.
AQI Control Initiatives
In response to the escalating pollution, the Delhi government has taken several preventive measures.
Schools have been temporarily closed, except for students in grades X and XII, to protect the health of children.
Environment Minister Gopal Rai announced the implementation of the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme from November 13 to November 20. The decision comes in anticipation of a spike in air pollution after the Diwali festival.
“From November 13 - November 20, odd-even will be implemented in Delhi. After studying the situation following the implementation, a decision will be taken on future actions,” Mr. Rai said during a press conference.
In a bid to control air pollution, the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) has imposed a ban on the entry of trucks into Delhi, with a few exceptions.
Furthermore, state governments have been advised to consider additional emergency measures, such as an odd-even vehicle rationing system based on registration numbers.
These measures fall under “stage 4” of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), a set of emergency measures aimed at mitigating air pollution.
As a final stage in the pollution control plan, the Delhi state government has also introduced a “work from home” policy for 50% of government staff until further notice, in an effort to reduce outdoor exposure.
Despite these efforts, the air quality in Delhi remains in the “severe” category according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR)-India reported an overall average AQI of 471 on Monday morning, placing the city in the “critical” category for several consecutive days. Pollution levels have consistently registered AQI readings in the “400” range, posing a severe risk to public health.
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