Delhi caught in a bind with no improvement in air quality

09 Nov 2017


Delhi's air pollution was graded as "severe" today by the Safar (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) website. Friday's advisory for the capital is also "severe", and after three days, Safar predicts the air quality in the city will be "very poor".

Credit: Mark Danielson/Flickr  

Today's forecast shows the PM10 level at 820 microgrammes per cubic metre and PM2.5 at 517 mcg per cubic metre. Particulate matter or PM is fine particles that enter the respiratory system and subsequently the bloodstream of humans and animals, causing damage.

According to media reports, nine people, including eight students, waiting by the side of a road to catch a bus after their vehicle met with an accident, were mowed down by a speeding truck near Bathinda-Chandigarh today, due to poor visibility.

The National Human Rights Commission today said it was alarmed at the life-threatening level pollution in Delhi-NCR. It issued notices to the centre and governments of Punjab and Haryana "on their action plan to tackle it''.

State deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia ordered all Delhi schools, government and private, to remain shut till Sunday. In his a tweet, he said this order was applicable to all classes in schools.

Delhi's lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal approved some drastic measures to curb air pollution. Baijal ordered a ban on civil construction and higher frequency of public transport. Barring those carrying essentials, trucks have been barred from entering Delhi.

The Delhi High Court has directed that an emergency meeting be called by the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change with the chief secretaries of NCR areas and pollution control agencies within three days.

The The National Green Tribunal has barred all construction activity in Delhi NCR till the air quality improves. It has pulled up the Delhi government, municipal corporations and neighbouring states and asked them to see the ''pitiable condition'' of people in hospitals and the way their lives are being played with.

During a hearing, the NGT asked Delhi government about the steps taken to curtail pollution, the number of challans issued to violators and the number of construction sites where work has been stopped. It also asked why rain isn't artificially being triggered using helicopters.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal reiterated the need for all neighbouring state governments to pitch in so that "a solution can be found" to the deteriorating smog situation in Delhi.

"If everyone - central government, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana governments - come together and put aside politics, a solution can be found. Until state governments find economically viable solutions to crop burning, it (smog situation) will not stop," he tweeted.

Kejriwal added that a decision on odd-even formula for private vehicles "will be taken by today or tomorrow (Friday) if need arises''.

"The high increase in PM levels in Delhi is not just due to local reasons, people and government of Delhi are ready to take all steps but these steps will not be enough until a solution to crop burning is found," he said.

"For a month (from mid-October to mid-November) the whole northern India becomes a gas chamber, not just Delhi."

Paytm founder and chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma is leaving for a coastal city in south India to escape the smog and pollution choking NCR. The employees of his company in Noida might not be able to leave like him, but Paytm is distributing pollution masks to them and is also offering flexible working hours so that they can avoid the peak pollution in the morning and evening.

Information technology company HCL, which has of 35,000 employees in NCR, is also distributing masks. India's biggest online travel agency MakeMyTrip said it was working on ways to help employees procure the right air masks at discounted prices on the office premises.

Multinational companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola and Indian fast-moving consumer goods major Dabur are not considering giving leave to their employees yet. Coke has air-purifying systems at its corporate office in Gurugram; others said the air quality on their premises was considerably better than outside.

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