Here’s What Delhiites Have to Say on ‘Hazardous’ Air Quality

Here’s What Delhiites Have to Say on ‘Hazardous’ Air Quality

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Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

The skies hung heavy and acrid over the National Capital and its suburbs on Friday, 1 November, with the air quality dipping to the hazardous “severe plus” category, prompting a Supreme Court mandated committee to step in and declare a public health emergency.

As smog enveloped the city in grey, many people moved around with masks and others stayed resolutely indoors in what could well be a dystopian nightmare come true. The EPCA, meanwhile, banned all construction activity in the Delhi-NCR region till 5 November.

“Everybody is having trouble breathing. Asthmatic problems in old and young have become common. The condition is really bad. This (Delhi) is no less than a gas chamber.”
Rashmi Sharma, Homemaker

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority panel also banned the bursting of crackers during the winter.

A Central Pollution Control Board official said the air quality index (AQI) entered the "severe plus" or "emergency" category early Friday morning, the first time since January this year.

According to official data, the overall AQI was 504 at 3:30 am.

Payal, a resident, expressed concern over the prevailing situation:

“The state of pollution is bad this time. Children are complaining about eyes burning, cough and throat pain. Medical Stores have run out of masks because of the demand. My child vomited because of the air that he is breathing in.”

If the air quality persists in the "severe plus" category for more than 48 hours, emergency measures such as odd-even car rationing scheme, banning entry of trucks, construction activities and shutting down schools are taken under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), the official said.

About 46 percent of pollution in Delhi on Friday was caused due to stubble burning in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, the highest this year, government agency SAFAR said.

Faced with the city turning into what he called a “gas chamber” and in accordance with the GRAP, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said his government had decided to shut all schools till 5 November. The odd-even scheme comes into force on 4 November for a fortnight.

CM Kejriwal, in his press conference held later in the evening, said, "The people who claim that it's not Parali (stubble burning) behind rise in pollution, I want to ask them that, what has changed from 30 September to 30 October in Delhi? Has there been a drastic rise in the vehicles or Industries?”

“What has changed now except that the smoke from stubble burning has worsened Delhi’s pollution levels. Personally, I am very concerned about the people of Delhi and we are trying our level best to combat it.”
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

EPCA directed that all coal and other fuel-based industries, which have not shifted to natural gas or agro-residue, will remain shut in places such as Faridabad, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Noida, Bahadurgarh and Bhiwadi till 5 November.

In Delhi, industries which have not yet shifted to piped natural gas will not operate during the period, it said. The panel also asked schools to curtail all outdoor activities and sports till 4 November.

As air pollution reached alarming levels, hospitals reported a surge in the number of patients suffering from respiratory and breathing complications.

Dr Arvind Kumar talks about smoke, the major factor in air pollution: "Sources of smoke from vehicle pollution, Industrial pollution, garbage burning, crop burning or trash burning in small areas have to be controlled. In themselves, they seem insignificant but collectively they will make a big difference in the ultimate outcome."

(With Inputs from PTI)

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