Delhi's air qualiy remained 'very poor' for the fourth consecutive day on Saturday. Five areas in the national capital- Anand Vihar, Dwaraka Sector 8, Narela, Punjabi Bagh and Rohini recorded the highest pollution level in the national capital at 434. Authorities have warned that the situation is likely to deteriorate urther next week due to localised emissions during Diwali festival and stubble burning.
The Central Pollution Control Board recorded the overall Air Quality Index of Delhi at 341. The highest AQI of this season was recorded on Friday at 361.
An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered "good", 51 and 100 "satisfactory", 101 and 200 "moderate", 201 and 300 "poor", 301 and 400 "very poor", and 401 and 500 "severe".
According to the data by the Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research, the overall air quality index of Delhi would deteriorate in a few days, remaining just points below the severe category.
The CPCB-led task force has recommended stringent measures from November 1 to 10, predicting further deterioration in the air quality ahead of Diwali.
Some of these recommendations include shut down of coal and biomass factories, intensification of inspection by transport department to check polluting vehicles and control traffic congestion in Delhi-NCR during November 1-10.
Authorities have issued an advisory, asking people to avoid outdoor strenuous activities and minimise use of private vehicles.
The task force warned that at beginning of November the situation may further deteriorate on account of localized emissions during festival and regional contribution due to stubble burning.
The PM2.5 (presence of particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) was recorded at 179. The PM10 level (presence of particles in the air with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres) in Delhi stood at 321, according to the data from the SAFAR.
The PM2.5, also called "fine particulates," can be a matter of more serious health concern than PM10.
Meanwhile, the Central Pollution Control Board has advised public to avoid strenuous outdoor exercises to minimize their exposure to the toxic air, and cut down the use of private cars during the first 10 days of November.
The Central Pollution Control Board's task force also recommended closure of all construction activities that generate dust pollution between November 1 and 10.
In a meeting with representatives from Environment Ministry, IMD, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, Haryana Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Board Friday, the task force apprised the members on the levels of air pollution in Delhi-NCR showing an upward trend.
Siddharth Singh, a representative from the India Meteorological Department, said Delhi's air quality, which has deteriorated to the very poor level, would continue to remain in that category for a few days.
The task force said that at the beginning of November the situation may further deteriorate on account of localised emissions during festivals and regional contribution due to stubble burning.
In view of this and considering previous years' experience, the task force recommended a few additional measures as proactive steps to deal with the situation for consideration by the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority.
It has recommended avoiding outdoor strenuous exercises, minimal use of private vehicles to reduce exposure to toxic air.
Other measures included shut down of coal and biomass based industries (excluding thermal and waste-to-energy plants) from November 4 to 10, intensification of efforts by transport department to check polluting vehicles and controlling traffic congestion in Delhi-NCR between November 1 and 10, according to the minutes of the meeting.
The task force also recommended efforts to provide uninterrupted power supply in NCR areas to avoid requirement of operating diesel generator (DG) sets.
D Saha, former air quality chief at CPCB, said meteorological factors like wind speed, solar direction and temperature are mostly responsible for increasing pollution levels in the city.
"If these factors come under control, the air quality automatically improves," he said.
The measures recommended by the task force are only preventive steps and not to create panic as the air pollution in Delhi is governed by meteorological conditions, he said.
"One strong wind is enough for dispersion of entire pollutants load. Clear sky in south, southeast and western part will improve ventilation coefficient and will improve situation in Delhi and NCR," Saha said.
The India Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, said large number of biomass fire spots were seen in satellite imageries in neighbouring states of Delhi.
"The prevailing meteorological conditions are not very favourable for dispersal of pollutants for next two days due to very low ventilation index and low wind speed," the IITM warned.
"As per Air Quality Forecast the Air Quality is likely to be in very poor to severe category at various places in Delhi for next two days. The dominant pollutant of AQ Index is PM2.5 and PM10," the IITM said.
Harsh Vardhan warns agencies
As the deteriorating air quality in the national capital region rings alarm bells, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday the government has decided to initiate criminal prosecution against agencies which do not comply with the directives to check air pollution.
The environment ministry's decision comes after a review meeting with 41 teams of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) deployed in Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad, which found the compliance rate of the agencies concerned in following the directives was "very poor".
"It is disheartening to know that the agencies are not following up on the complaints received on air pollution and the feedback that we have received from the teams is that the compliance rate is very poor. So we have decided to initiate criminal prosecution against such agencies or polluters. The modalities of the entire procedure will be worked out by the CPCB in the next couple of days," Vardhan said.
Govt-run bodies issues advisory to Delhites
Keep windows shut, wear masks, prefer short walks, minimise use of private vehicles are among the recommendations of government bodies for Delhites who are battling dangerous pollution levels in the city.
Other measures included shutdown of coal and biomass based industries (excluding thermal and waste-to-energy plants) from November 4 to 10, intensification of efforts by transport department to check polluting vehicles and controlling traffic congestion in Delhi-NCR between November 1 and 10, according to the minutes of the meeting.