Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has convened a crucial high-level meeting to address the alarming deterioration of the city’s air quality. The meeting, attended by Environment Minister Gopal Rai, Public Works Department Minister Atishi, Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, and Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj, comes as Delhi grapples with its annual air pollution crisis.
The air quality in the city has remained in the ‘severe’ category for five consecutive days, with an overall Air Quality Index (AQI) of 488 on a scale that tops out at 500. Several areas within Delhi are among the hardest hit, including New Moti Bagh (488), RK Puram (466) in South Delhi, Patparganj (471) in East Delhi, and ITO (402) in the northeastern part of the capital.
In response to the worsening crisis, the Delhi government has extended the closure of all schools for students up to Class 5 until November 10. For students in Class 6-12, the option to attend classes online has been provided.
The persistent toxic smog enveloping Delhi has raised concerns among healthcare professionals regarding the increasing incidence of respiratory and eye ailments, particularly among children and the elderly.
Microscopic PM2.5 particles, known to pose health risks as they can penetrate deep into the lungs, have exceeded the government’s safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic meter in Delhi-NCR, surpassing it by eight times over the past few days. It’s worth noting that the safe limit itself is 12 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended limit of five micrograms per cubic meter.
To combat the severe air pollution, the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has been activated at its highest level in Delhi and surrounding cities, where the air quality has consistently remained in the “severe plus” category.
The GRAP is a comprehensive set of anti-air pollution measures established by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and comprises four stages, with Stage IV representing the most critical level. Stage IV is triggered when the Air Quality Index (AQI) remains above 450 or falls into the “severe plus” category.
Under the GRAP, restrictions on the entry of trucks into Delhi have been imposed, except for those transporting essential goods or offering essential services and those using LNG, CNG, or electric power. Only electric, CNG, and BS-VI diesel light commercial vehicles (LCVs) registered outside of Delhi are allowed to enter the city, with exceptions for those carrying essential items or providing essential services.
Additionally, all construction and demolition activities in Delhi, including public projects such as roads, bridges, and power lines, have been suspended.
Both the Delhi and central governments are considering the option of allowing public, municipal, and private offices to operate with half of their staff working from home.
The University of Chicago has ranked Delhi’s air quality as one of the worst among capital cities worldwide, and their research indicates that air pollution reduces life expectancy by nearly 12 years. The urgency to combat this crisis remains a top priority for the authorities.