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With increase in stubble burning in neighbouring states and the NCR, Delhi on Monday saw a further rise in pollution levels, with Bhiwadi (NCR) in Rajasthan becoming the first place to record "severe" quality of air under the Air Quality Index (AQI).
The national capital, where the air quality has already touched "very poor" level in many areas, including IGI Airport, Delhi University (North Campus) and Mathura Road, recorded an AQI of 290 -- merely 10 points away from overall "very poor" air quality.
Ghaziabad, on the other hand, was on the verge of reaching "severe" with air quality at present registering "very poor" at an Index value of 385. Noida, where air quality was slightly better 48 hours earlier, also saw increase in pollution, with AQI recorded at 263, considered "poor".
Based on the major pollutant volume of PM2.5, or particles with diameter lesser than 2.5 mm, all the recorded regions in Delhi and NCR saw three to four times the safe limit of the pollutants.
The PM2.5 was set to increase to at least 122 units on Tuesday and 137 units on Wednesday, a day before Diwali, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).
On Monday, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in Anand Vihar recorded 207.72 units of PM2.5 at 4.00 p.m. and 520 units of PM10 in the past 24 hours, with Monday's peak value recorded at 496 units.
The international permissible limit for PM2.5 is 25 micrograms per cubic metre, while for India it is 60. For PM10, safe limit is 100 units.
SAFAR, which has forecast "very poor" air quality for next two days, on Monday also advised people to wear N-100 rated face masks when stepping out of their homes.
SAFAR officials cautioned people, especially with heart or lung diseases, elderly and children, to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Medical experts said already a surge was seen in the number of patients complaining about chest pain and respiratory issues.
According to the CPCB data, PM2.5 over the past 24 hours was 174.95 at R.K. Puram, 167.42 at Dwarka, 1,41.81 at Dilshad Garden, 132.24 units at ITO, 119.21 units at Mandir Marg and 208.30 at Shadipur.
All these values were more than twice the safe limit set by the government, which as per the possible health impacts (set by CPCB) can cause respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.
Meanwhile, Ozone level was at peak at IGI Airport, according to SAFAR, with the value placed at 305 units, considered "very poor".
At 3.30 p.m. on Monday, the PM2.5 value recorded at Delhi University (North Campus) was 331 units, 161 at R.K. Puram and 155.38 at IGI airport.
Warning of further worsening of the air quality, weather analysts said north-westerly winds blowing at speeds of 10 to 12 km per hour across Delhi were bringing along pollutants from Punjab and neighbouring Haryana.