By Prarthana Mitra
The National Capital Region, according to latest reports, turned into a dustbowl as a thick blanket of haze enveloped Delhi and its satellite towns. The air quality attained a certified “severe” level amidst forecasts of continuing dust storms over the next few days. “There will be strong dust raising winds throughout the day. This will continue on Friday as well,” an India Meteorological Department (IMD) official said.
Delhi’s continuing tryst with summer haze
A city, all too familiar with breathing problems, burning sensation in the eyes and irritation of the throat during peak summers, is now struggling with dust and haze, adding to the suffering caused by extreme levels of heat. Several airlines have rescheduled or cancelled their flights due to reduced visibility. Pollution masks have made a comeback and government has advised schools, college and offices to adjourn, as Delhi tackles an ongoing heatwave, now compounded by the dust.
The MET department said that Delhi-NCR recorded an all-time high of 796 of PM10 level particles-which are determined by the presence of particles with a diameter less than 10mm, leading to hazy conditions. Teetering on the edge of “very poor” air quality for a long time, Delhi air finally attained the “severe” level because of a ground-level dust storm in western India, which increased coarser particles in the air.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has warned residents that the pollution level is likely to remain like this for at least for three to four days with persisting difficulty to breathe, as the air quality index (AQI) at several places crossed the 500-mark Thursday morning, with east Delhi’s Anand Vihar area recording a PM10 level of 929 and PM2.5 level of 301.
Authorities complacent, residents concerned
Some of the measures taken by Delhi government to improve air quality include suspending all construction activities and using sprinkler machines to water the scorching streets, but they have proved to be largely inadequate. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is receiving the flak for this, although he reportedly blamed the “strike” by IAS officers which has prevented the issue from being addressed. No meeting on pollution control has been held over the last three months due to their ongoing “strike”, he wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to intervene.
Kejriwal himself is currently on a sit-in protest at Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal’s home for the last four days. “Delhi is facing severe #pollution and dust particles are 18 times higher across the city and State and Central Govt representatives are sitting on “Dharna” in AC room. Where should the common man go?” tweeted a concerned citizen.
Environmentalists are of the opinion that pollution in Delhi has been worse since the frightful smog in November last year. Delhi currently ranks as the sixth most polluted city in the world.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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