'Delhi's 20 Million Effectively Breathing Smoke,' Residents Worry Over 'Severe' AQI

'Eight out of 10 children in Delhi-NCR have respiratory problems. After years of discussions, why is there a continuing lack of concern/coordination between multiple government entities?' BJP MP Varun Gandhi said.

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New Delhi: Social media was filled with complaints of serious discomfort from Delhi’s residents as the city’s air quality continued to be in the ‘severe’ category on Thursday, November 3, according to Central Pollution Control Board data.

“Delhi’s 20 million residents were effectively breathing smoke on Thursday,” Reuters reported.

While the forecasters on Wednesday predicted the air quality was likely to improve on the back of stronger winds, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi stood at 426 at 9.10 am.

An AQI of above 400 is considered “severe” and can affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing illnesses.

BJP MP Varun Gandhi is among those who have questioned the lack of “concern and coordination” among multiple government agencies in tackling the crisis.

“Eight out of 10 children in Delhi-NCR have respiratory problems. After years of discussions, why is there a continuing lack of concern/coordination between multiple government entities,” he asked.

Parents and environmentalists, including Vimlendu Jha, demanded schools be closed.

The world’s most polluted capital is blanketed in smog every winter as cold, heavy air traps construction dust, vehicle emissions and smoke from the burning of crop stubble in the neighbouring states to clear the fields for the next crop.

Lower temperatures, calmer winds and their changing direction worsen the air quality from time to time.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose party also rules Punjab where crop burning is rampant, said on Twitter that the “people of Punjab and Delhi are taking all steps at their level” to tackle pollution.

The capital this week stopped most construction and demolition work to curb dust pollution and appealed to residents to share car and motorcycle journeys, work from home when possible and reduce the use of coal and firewood at home.

The burning of stubble, the paddy straw left over after harvesting, is believed to play a role in Delhi’s escalating AQI. As reported by The Wire, stubble burning has now entered its peak zone, with daily average cases of fires since October 28 going above 1,950, according to data compiled by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.

Punjab reported 3,634 farm fires on Wednesday, the highest this year so far. SAFAR, a forecasting agency under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, had earlier said stubble burning accounted for 32% of the PM2.5 pollution in the capital on Wednesday.

PM2.5 are lung-damaging fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter and can travel deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and entering the bloodstream.

Transport-level winds blow in the lowest two layers of the atmosphere – the troposphere and stratosphere – and carry smoke from farm fires to the national capital region.

Anand Vihar and Jahangirpuri have emerged the most polluted places in the capital with AQI at 460.

The areas that recorded ‘severe’ AQI are Alipur (439), Ashok Vihar (444), Bawana (456), Burari (443), Mathura Road (412), DTU (436), Dwarka (408), ITO (435), Mundka (438), Narela (447), Nehru Nagar (433), Patparganj (441), Rohini (453), Sonia Vihar (444), Vivek Vihar (444) and Wazirpur (444).

The AQI continued to remain in the very poor’ category in Ghaziabad (391), Noida (388), Greater Noida (390), Gurugram (391) and Faridabad (347), the CPCB data stated.

An AQI between zero 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”.

(With agency inputs)