A thick layer of smog lingered over Delhi and its adjoining areas this morning as the pollution levels slipped into the severe category again after the numbers showed a marginal improvement on Wednesday.
The air quality index or AQI was 408 at 7 am as a result of farm fires in the neighbouring states and emissions from the smoke-belching vehicles. Besides these two factors, unfavourable meteorological conditions also serves as a key driver for pollution in the national capital.
As Delhi is forced to breathe the toxic air, several residents have reported difficulties and health issues, with the elderly and school-going children being the worst hit.
Medical experts say prolonged exposure to toxic air, especially during the morning hours when children leave for schools, can lead to serious health problems.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to shut schools till air quality improves – which is under consideration.
Parents, however, say the authorities should adopt long-term measures to contain the pollution levels rather than shutting the schools. “Closing schools is not a solution, the government should do something to contain pollution levels,” a woman told NDTV.
“Our children ate struggling to breathe, but the government should not shut the schools. They should take steps to improve the air quality. The kids already suffered when the schools were shut during the pandemic,” another parent said.
The 24-hour AQI of the city stood at 376 yesterday, improving from 424 on Tuesday – the worst since December 26 last year when it was 459.
The AQI between 401 and 500 is categorized as severe, the worst band on the index. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”.
Experts say the air quality in Delhi is worst between November 1 and November 15 because the stubble burning is at peak during this period.
Smoke from farm fires contributed to up to 32 per cent of the tiny PM 2.5 lung-damaging pollutants in the city’s air – the highest in the past two years during the period of mid-October to early November, according to data from the Ministry of Earth Science.
PM 2.5 are fine particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter and can travel deep into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and entering the bloodstream.