With Delhi continuing to be under thick smog cover, a dangerous mix of fog and toxic pollution, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) late on Tuesday declared public health emergency. The medical body had even appealed to the government to stop outdoor sports and other such activities in schools to protect the health of children.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has now sought a meeting with his counterparts in Punjab and Haryana to discuss measures to bring down the alarming pollution levels.
“Am writing letters to CMs of Punjab and Haryana requesting them for a meeting to find solns to crop burning,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Delhi’s air quality was measured season’s worst on Tuesday as a combined effect of smoke from stubble burning and moisture resulted in a thick pollution cover over Delhi and NCR.
Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, alarmed at the situation, announced closure of primary schools, while other authorities directed a four-fold hike in parking fees among a series of sweeping measures.
As a thick blanket of haze hung low over the city, visibility levels plunged, affecting flight and train operations. It permeated living rooms and even the underground metro stations in the city making it difficult to breathe, turning eyes watery and producing burning sensation.
The Delhi government also issued a health advisory for high risk people, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and those suffering from asthma and heart ailments.
The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, empowered to enforce the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to contain emergency levels of pollution, announced that all measures under the plan’s severe category will be implemented across the region till further notice.
It also directed the states in the region to start preparing for implementing measures like ‘odd-even’ in light of the “crisis situation”.
With a score of 448 in a scale of 500, the air quality index was in the ‘severe’ category for the second time this year. However, when Diwali fireworks had triggered high pollution October 20, the AQI index was had a lower reading at 403.
The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences’ agency System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) recorded 24-hour rolling averages of PM 2.5 and PM 10 at a staggering 406 and 645 micrograms per cubic metre, way above the permissible limits of 60 and 100.
The real time monitors of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), many of which stopped working as concentration of pollutants went through the roof, recorded PM10 over 10 times the permissible limit at several spots.
The National Green Tribunal took the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana to task, seeking to know why steps to prevent steps were not taken despite knowing well in advance that such a situation was likely to arise.
(With inputs from PTI)