Delhiites struggle with worst air quality of the season

India's air quality has plummeted to worst possible category

On Saturday, five areas in Delhi recorded severe pollution levels. Punjabi Bagh recorded the highest pollution level in the national capital at 434.

Meanwhile, an inspection team led by Delhi Environment minister Imran Hussain Friday found "serious violations" in norms for dust control at the Pragati Maidan redevelopment site, following which the minister directed pollution control authorities to take strict action, the city government said.

The Supreme Court-appointed body, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on 25 October warned that air pollution in Delhi is likely to peak from 1 November as poisonous fumes from the stubble-burning areas of Haryana and Punjab could surge in due to change in the wind direction.

The PM2.5 (presence of particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) was recorded at 179.

The Central Pollution Control Board or CPCB recorded the overall air quality index in the national capital at 358 this morning, which falls in the "very poor" category.

Out of 48 monitored station across NCR (including Delhi), only four had "moderate to poor" air quality while 23 stations have "severe or severe-plus" air quality and 21 were "very-poor".

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Despite pressure from health experts, the government this year held off on a wholesale ban on fireworks and has faced criticism for failing to prevent farmers in states neighbouring Delhi from burning stubble.

Alarmed at the situation, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recommended that people avoid heavy workouts, try to get themselves less exposed to toxic air, and cut down on the use of private cars.

This is a major contributor to particulate matter less than 10 m in size, or PM10, in the ambient air, which has raised pollution worries in recent times because it silently lodges in the respiratory system. "The latest data of stubble burning and the AQI has vindicated it", said Kahan Singh Pannu, secretary, agriculture, state nodal officer of the anti-stubble burning campaign.

"On Thursday and Friday, more stubble was burnt in Punjab and Haryana due to which its contribution to PM2.5 pollution increased", the official said, adding that the impact of pollution by stubble burning on the national capital could be seen only a day after the stubble is burnt.

"The weather conditions are favourable for further deterioration in pollution levels". It also recommended that people go for shorter walks instead of jogs, keep windows closed and wear masks.

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.

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