The air quality in Delhi has reached a critical juncture, marked as ‘severe plus’ on the air quality index (AQI), posing a substantial risk to public health. On Sunday, the AQI in the national capital registered at 454, prompting the central government to initiate stringent measures to mitigate air pollution and prevent it from escalating further.
As per real-time data, the average AQI stood at 470 this morning, which is nearly 20 times higher than the recommended limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to aqi.in, the current air quality index has surged to a concerning 490.
Notably, the increased burning of paddy straw in the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, in preparation for the rabi crop season, has been identified as a major contributing factor to the deteriorating air quality in Delhi. However, Delhi’s Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, emphasized that the primary source of deteriorating AQI lies in the stubble burning in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, not Punjab.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts no rainfall in the city, which could have otherwise helped disperse air pollutants and improve the AQI. In light of this alarming situation, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has convened a high-level meeting to assess the deteriorating AQI and the implementation of stage 4 regulations under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) based in New Delhi reported a total of 4,160 farm fires recorded until Sunday, marking the highest count for this season. Of these, Punjab alone reported 3,230 instances of stubble burning in a single day, reflecting the state’s highest count for the season.
Dr. Piyush Ranjan, Additional Professor in the Department of Medicine at AIIMS, highlighted the health risks faced by Delhi’s population, including coronary artery diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, and arthritis, and linked these conditions to air pollution.
These severe air quality issues have also impacted sports activities in the city, with the Bangladesh and Sri Lankan cricket teams encountering difficulties in conducting practice sessions outdoors. Asthmatic members of the Bangladesh cricket team were forced to remain indoors, while Sri Lankan players resorted to wearing masks.
As Delhi grapples with this ongoing environmental crisis, public health concerns remain paramount. With the implementation of stage 4 measures under the GRAP and a focus on mitigating the adverse impacts of stubble burning, the city seeks to address its severe air quality challenges and protect the well-being of its residents.