Delhi's Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has convened a high-level meeting today to address the deteriorating air quality crisis in the city.
Notable attendees include Delhi's Environment Minister Gopal Rai, and officials from relevant departments.
This meeting transpires amidst a dire air pollution situation in the national capital. For the fifth consecutive day, Delhi's air quality remains severely compromised, with an Air Quality Index (AQI) lingering in the 'severe' category. The comprehensive AQI for the city has been recorded at a concerning 488.
Some of the most adversely impacted areas in Delhi encompass RK Puram (AQI 466), ITO (AQI 402), Patparganj (AQI 471), and New Moti Bagh (AQI 488).
In response to the escalating air pollution levels, the Delhi government has extended the closure of all schools up to Class X until 10 November. Schools for classes VI-XII are not mandated to close but have the option to conduct online classes.
A suffocating shroud of hazardous smog continues to envelop Delhi, raising concerns among medical professionals about the rising prevalence of respiratory and ocular ailments, particularly among children and the elderly.
Microscopic PM2.5 particles, known to lodge deep in the lungs and trigger health issues, have surged to levels seven to eight times higher than the government's acceptable limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre at multiple locations in Delhi-NCR over the past few days. This staggering figure stands 80 to 100 times above the World Health Organization's recommended limit of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.
In response to this critical situation, the central government has activated the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) at its highest level in Delhi and its surrounding areas, where the air quality is entrenched in the "severe plus" category.
The GRAP is a framework of anti-air pollution measures established by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). It comprises four stages, with Stage IV being the most severe, and it comes into effect when the AQI surpasses 450 or remains in the "severe plus" category.
To combat the severe air pollution, the GRAP restricts the entry of trucks into Delhi, except for those transporting essential goods, offering vital services, or utilising LNG, CNG, or electric power. Only electric, CNG, and BS-VI diesel light commercial vehicles registered outside of Delhi are permitted entry.
Moreover, all construction and demolition activities in Delhi, including public infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and power lines, have been temporarily suspended.
The Delhi and central governments are also contemplating allowing public, municipal, and private offices to operate with half of their workforce working remotely.
It is noteworthy that Delhi's air quality ranks among the most precarious among global capital cities, as per a University of Chicago report, which underscores that air pollution curtails life expectancy by nearly 12 years.
Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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