New Delhi under cloud of smog as pollution level jumps

'Hazardous' air pollution in India's capital prompts emergency measures

Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida recorded "severe" pollution levels, while Gurugram recorded "very poor" air quality, CPCB data showed.

There are six Air Quality Index (AQI) categories on a scale from 0-500 - Good, Satisfactory, Moderate, Poor, Very Poor and Severe.

Despite the Supreme Courts directives, people in Delhi-NCR on Wednesday continued to burst crackers on Diwali well past the 10 p.m. deadline though the air quality index (AQI) showed a slight improvement over previous year.

"Air Quality will be bad on Thursday and start to improve from Friday even if partial toxic crackers as compared to 2017 is burned", the government-run agency warned.

The early onset of winter's cool and foggy weather coupled with pollution created by fireworks during Diwali and ongoing high levels of pollution have triggered this situation, experts say. The air quality is poor and prominent pollutants are PM 2.5 and PM 10.

"I would like to take this occasion to share with the residents of the national capital, the existing ambient air quality position and would like to request the residents to persuade their near and dear ones for desisting from bursting fire crackers and convince their children about the importance of a green and clean Diwali", he added.

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On Wednesday, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) recorded AQI of 328 at Dhirpur, 375 in Mathura Road, Delhi University - 365 and 353 at IGI Airport Terminal 3. Air quality will be "bad" on Thursday, 8 November - a day after Diwali - even if "partial toxic crackers" are used as compared to a year ago, SAFAR said. An AQI between 301 and 400 is considered very poor.

Authorities attribute the continuous pollution to the change in wind direction, which is now blowing from the direction of stubble burning areas of Punjab and Haryana.

According to the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for the National Capital Region (EPCA), the overall PM10 level in Delhi on Tuesday by the latest measure was 353 and the PM2.5 level was 225, both of which fall in the "very poor" category.

The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said the winds coming from north-westerly direction is bringing the influence of biomass burning to Delhi-NCR which may continue up to Thursday morning.

"The contribution of stubble burning to pollution in the national capital is expected to be 24 per cent on Monday", another official said.

The level of PM2.5 pollutants in the air in South Delhi's Okhla area was 644, or 20 times the World Health Organization's declared safe level.

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