New Delhi- In response to the alarming rise in air pollution levels, the Delhi government has announced the reinstatement of the odd-even vehicle rule, set to be enforced from November 13 to November 20.
Delhi’s Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, made this crucial announcement on Monday as the capital city grapples with air quality that has reached hazardous levels, surpassing government-mandated safety thresholds.
Under the odd-even system, vehicles with odd-numbered license plates will be allowed to ply the roads on odd-numbered dates, while those with even-numbered plates will be permitted on even dates during this designated period. The move is part of an emergency response to curb air pollution, which has been further exacerbated by adverse weather conditions and agricultural fires in the northern regions of India.
Furthermore, it has been decided that physical classes in schools will remain suspended for the entire week from November 13-20, except for students in Class 10 and 12.
The air quality in Delhi-NCR has deteriorated significantly, with air pollution levels reaching seven to eight times the government’s defined safe limits. This recent development marks the seventh consecutive day that the region has been engulfed in a hazardous and toxic smog.
In response to the worsening situation, Delhi has implemented stringent measures, including a ban on the entry of trucks known to contribute to pollution. The air quality index (AQI), which measures pollution levels, has fallen into the ‘severe plus’ category for the second time in three days.
These critical conditions have prompted the activation of Stage IV of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) by the central government. The GRAP outlines a four-stage action plan, with Stage IV being initiated when the AQI surpasses 450. On Monday, the AQI in Delhi was recorded at 440.
Notably, the air pollution crisis has extended to several other cities in the neighboring states of Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, all reporting dangerous levels of pollution. Cities surrounding Delhi, such as Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Noida, Greater Noida, and Faridabad, have also recorded perilous air quality levels.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has offered a glimmer of hope, suggesting that conditions conducive to dispersing pollutants may emerge by Tuesday night, thanks to an approaching western disturbance that often brings unexpected rainfall to northwest India. Such rain can help alleviate the pollution levels.
The levels of PM2.5, fine particulate matter known to pose severe health risks, have been recorded at seven to eight times the government’s safe threshold of 60 micrograms per cubic meter in various parts of Delhi-NCR. These figures also far exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended healthy limit of 15 micrograms per cubic meter.
Health experts have issued warnings, emphasizing that the persistent toxic haze is exacerbating health issues, particularly for individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
(With inputs from agencies)