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The national capital remained in the throes of a pollution emergency for the third day today, prompting the city government to declare a return of the odd- even scheme from November 13 despite the level of pollutants dipping for the first time since Tuesday.
Women drivers, two-wheelers and vehicles carrying children in school uniforms, besides VVIPs will be kept out of the ambit of the scheme under which cars bearing registration numbers ending with odd digits are allowed to ply on odd dates while those ending with even digits run on even dates.
Also, commercial vehicles, bearing yellow number plates, will not come under it.
Meanwhile, schools across the city remained shut and construction activities came to a halt at many places as part of preventive measures announced yesterday, as the toxic haze over the city hung low, albeit with reduced intensity.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recorded an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 486 on a scale of 500 for the day in the national capital. AQI of neighbouring Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurgaon were also in the emergency category.
A graph containing the hourly-levels of ultrafine particulates PM2.5 and PM10 showed a distinct downward curve from around 12 pm for the first time since Tuesday when the concentration of these pollutants breached the emergency scale.
"The dip in minimum temperature resulted in the moisture, which had trapped the pollutants, to turn into water. Subsequently, some amount of dispersion happened as the water droplets became too heavy to float in the air and fell," CPCB's air lab chief Dipankar Saha told PTI.
A task force of the CPCB, which met to review the measures taken under the Graded Response Action Plan, concluded that the level of pollution will come down to the 'very poor' category on Saturday, two notches below the 'emergency category' prevailing now.
It said no additional measures under the Graded Response Action Plan, including the odd-even scheme, are required as of now, suggesting that the Delhi government's decision does not have the backing of the key panel which oversees enforcement of the GRAP.
"Delhi Metro has also promised to provide 100 small buses during the period. Schools will be free to provide their buses voluntarily. However, there will be no compulsion," he said.
CNG vehicles will be exempt but need to have stickers in place. These will be available at 22 IGL gas stations across Delhi from 2 pm tomorrow.
"The old stickers which were issued in the last edition of odd-even will be valid too," the minister said.
The state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana were also directed to ensure that no crop residue were burnt and incentives provided to farmers.
The Delhi High Court asked the government to consider the option of "cloud seeding" to induce rainfall artificially, as an immediate step to bring down the dust and particulate matter in the atmosphere.
The court also suggested that the odd-even scheme be brought back, hours after which the government made the announcement.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent out notices to the Centre and the governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana in view of "life-threatening" pollution levels in the region and rapped the authorities for not taking proper steps to tackle the "hazard", amounting to violation of right to life and health.
The environment ministry set up a high-level committee to propose and monitor solutions to air pollution.
The seven-member committee, headed by the environment secretary, will look at short-term and long-term measures. It will meet at regular intervals to draw up a plan and ensure enforcement of various pollution control measures, an official statement said.
Speaking after inaugurating 20 new air monitoring stations in the city, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal emphasised on the need for the Centre, Harayna, Punjab and Delhi governments to keep political differences aside and come together to find a permanent solution to stubble burning, which aggravates pollution here.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)