Delhi’s air quality plummeted to the ‘severe plus’ category again, making the national capital the most polluted city in the country today. The real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) is over 500 in different parts of the capital. At noon, the highest level was recorded at the Wazirpur monitoring station in Delhi, reporting an AQI level of 859.
The PM2.5 concentration level in Delhi is currently 96.2 times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines value.
PM2.5 or Particulate Matter 2.5 are fine, inhalable particles with diameters generally 2.5 micrometres or smaller. Meanwhile, PM10 or Particulate Matter 10 have a diameter of 10 microns or smaller and are found in significant proportions. PM2.5 pollutants are so small that they can enter the bloodstream causing adverse health impacts.
The PM2.5 level was reported at 481 micrograms/cubic metres. While PM10 was the main pollutant in Delhi and its neighbouring cities.
All air quality monitoring stations across Delhi reported a PM2.5 level of over 450 µg/m³.
Farm Fires And Other Factors
According to data from IQAir, an online air quality monitoring platform, the AQI level doubled on November 2 in just a day, reaching 483 from 256. While most of October saw AQI levels hovering between 150 and 200, from October 28, the AQI crossed the 200 mark and has spiked since then.
Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is one of the factors responsible for the pollution apart from Delhi-NCR’s own vehicular and industrial pollution.
Correlating the spike in AQI and Punjab farm fires, from October 25 and 29, NASA’s Worldview satellite recorded the stubble-burning incidents.
The crop-burning incidents increased significantly on October 26, rising even the next day, but saw a sharp decline on October 28 and increased exponentially on October 29.
Significantly, despite the rising trend this season, there has been a 57 per cent decline in farm fires between September 15 to October 29 from last year.
The Centre implemented the stage 3 measures to curb air pollution. Banning construction work in areas recording AQI over 400.
Vehicular emission and low wind speed are other factors that compound the misery. According to IQAir, the current wind speed in Delhi at 1:30 pm was reported at 7.4 km/hr. High wind speed helps disperse the pollutants.
The AQI hovered over 500 for the fourth consecutive day. Experts, for several years, have warned that extremely hazardous level of pollution has severe health impacts on all age groups and even on foetuses.
To put into perspective the health impact, the quality of the air people are inhaling is equivalent to smoking 25-30 cigarettes.
“From head to toe, there’s no organ in the body that escapes the ill effects of air pollution. There is evidence to say that it causes obesity and asthma,” senior lung specialist at Medanta Hospital, Dr Arvind Kumar said.
According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), both short and long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases, including stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, trachea, bronchus and lung cancers, aggravated asthma and lower respiratory infections.