New Delhi’s air remains ‘very bad’ despite emergency measures
New Delhi – Air pollution remained very high in the Indian capital on Thursday, a day after authorities closed schools indefinitely and shuttered some power plants to reduce the smog that blanketed the city for most of the month.
Air quality in New Delhi remained “extremely poor”, according to SAFAR, India’s main environmental monitoring agency. The concentration of airborne fine particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter — known as PM 2.5 — is close to 300 micrograms per cubic meter in some parts of the city, she said.
The World Health Organization sets the maximum safe level of 25. The fine particles can settle in the lungs and other organs, causing long-term health damage.
New Delhi, a city of 20 million people, is one of the world’s most polluted cities. Air quality often reaches dangerous levels during the winter, when the burning of crop residues in neighboring countries coincides with low temperatures trapping smoke. Smoke moves to New Delhi, obscuring the sky.
Emergency measures went into effect on Wednesday in an effort to stem the health crisis.
Schools have been closed indefinitely and staff have been asked to allow half of their staff to work from home for a week. Some coal-fired power plants outside New Delhi have been ordered to shut down and construction activities have halted.
However, these measures are expected to have very little effect.
Meanwhile, the New Delhi state government is considering whether to lock down the capital after India’s Supreme Court last week sought an “imminent and emergency” action plan to tackle the crisis.
The concentration of PM 2.5 rose to nearly 15 times above the safe level of the World Health Organization in several days in November and forecasters warn that the pollution is likely to get worse in the coming days.
Pollution problems in New Delhi are due to various causes.
Auto emissions contribute nearly 25% of the city’s winter pollution, according to the federal government. Other sources of air pollution include emissions from industries, smoke from festival-related fireworks, construction dust, and agricultural burning.
Several studies have estimated that more than one million Indians die each year from air pollution-related illnesses.
In 2020, 13 of the world’s 15 cities with the most polluted air were in India, according to Swiss air quality monitoring company IQAir.
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