Air quality in Delhi remained beyond "severe" level for the third day on Thursday, as authorities warned the prevailing dusty conditions were likely to prevail for three-four days and advised people to avoid staying outdoors for long hours.
The national capital woke up under the shade of dust with the minimum temperature recorded at 34 degrees Celsius, five notches above the season's average. The maximum temperature is likely to hover around 41 to 42 degrees Celsius. By 9.30am, the temperature at Palam was already 35 degrees Celsius.
How bad is it
The PM10 level (presence of particles with diameter less than 10mm) was beyond severe at 796 in Delhi-NCR and 830 in Delhi particularly, leading to hazy conditions.
According to the CPCB, the air quality index — a measurement of the concentration of toxic particulate matter in the air — at several places in Delhi remained beyond the 500-mark, with east Delhi's Anand Vihar area recording a PM10 level of 929 and PM2.5 level of 301 this morning.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered “Good”, 51-100 “Satisfactory”, 101-200 “Moderate”, 201-300 “Poor”, 301-400 “Very Poor”, and 401-500 "Severe".
The CPCB said pollution this summer is very different from last year. In November, both PM2.5 and PM10 spiked in the Delhi-NCR region, posing serious health hazard to residents.
The increase in pollution levels now is mainly due to drastic increase in coarse particles in air. This time the PM2.5, ultra-fine particles that may reach lungs and affect its functioning, is not as high as that of November last year.
Why the sudden dip in air quality
Delhi and surrounding areas are seeing a sudden deterioration in air quality as the entire region is under the grip of dust brought through winds from Rajasthan, Iran and southern Afghanistan, according to IMD officials.
“There was an anti-wind pattern towards Rajasthan, so the winds blowing about 30 to 40 kmph had bought the entire region, including Delhi, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan under the grip of dust," IMD scientist Kuldeep Srivastava said.
According to private weather forecasting agency Skymet, the dust-raising winds from Iran and southern Afghanistan will continue till showers bring respite to Delhi and adjoining regions around June 16 and 17.
The Met department said wind speed reaching up to 35 kmph is predicted for Thursday in Delhi. The dust-laden winds have created a haze in Delhi-NCR since Wednesday.
The Environment Ministry has alerted major construction agencies, municipal corporations and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to ensure water sprinkling, and asked Delhi's Chief Secretary to issue appropriate instructions in the matter to the agencies concerned.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) convened an urgent meeting of the Task Force regarding implementation of Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on Wednesday and issued necessary directions to contain local dust sources.
The Supreme Court-appointed Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) sent an advisory to all states in the Delhi-NCR region, asking them to take proper steps. NCR comprises districts in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
To do list
The hazardous air quality in Delhi can have several negative impact on one's health.
There are certain precautions that you can take to ward off the effects of toxic air pollutants:
1. Cover your face: Use either a pollution mask or a cloth to cover your face whenever you step out on the roads. N95 and N99 are the most effective pollution mask, according to medical experts.
2. Keep surrounding clean and avoid construction sites: Avoid going close to a construction site as pollution is especially higher in such areas. You can spray water outside your house to settle dust particles.
3. Use closed vehicles: Use closed mode of transport such as a car or a metro. Avoid going in open vehicles such as autos or two-wheelers.