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Delhi’s air quality continues to plummet

Air pollution in Delhi. Image credit: Sumita Roy Dutta [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
Delhi’s air quality continues to worsen,  recording its worst Air Quality Index (AQI) readings on Friday thus far at the time of writing. 

The reading for Delhi stood at 315 at 8.30 a.m. on Friday, compared to 311 the previous day, designated “very poor”. Readings were equal or worse in other parts of the National Capital Region, especially in its fourteen pollution hotspots. In neighbouring areas Baghpat, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Greater Noida, and Noida, the AQI scores stood at 312, 336, 311, 312 and 320 respectively.

This is not to say the Delhi government hasn’t made steps in reducing pollution levels. Particulate pollution has decreased by 25 percent over the past decade according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE); however, a further 65 percent is needed. 

“Cold wind is coming into Delhi. No wind, no dispersion, that makes the same sources of pollution choke us,” explained Sunita Narain, the CSE Director-General. “Local sources of pollution are key reason why Delhi and its surrounding areas are seeing poor or very poor pollution levels.” The burning of crop residue and stubble by farmers in neighbouring states accounts for between five and seven percent of pollution in the capital, she added. As of October 18th, there were 491 stubble burning fires. 

The proportion of pollution accounted for by local sources versus external factors has been a source of controversy. Designating Delhi a “gas chamber’, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal argued “there is pollution from inside and there is pollution from outside. Only blaming people of Delhi for pollution is wrong. We should congratulate people of Delhi for accepting several harsh measures to curb pollution. There is no city in the country that has accepted such harsh measures. They were able to reduce pollution by 25 percent.” 

Of measures taken to improve Delhi’s air quality and tackle pollution, Kejriwal said “a comprehensive winter action plan has been prepared by the Delhi government. The odd-even scheme is aimed at limiting the emission by vehicles in the air over that period…to fight pollution, our government has banned [the] use of DG [diesel generator] sets, started hotspot monitoring, announced dust control measures and formed teams for keeping vigil on the construction activities and to stop garbage burning.”

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