A thick haze has blanketed Delhi, leading to a further deterioration in air quality since it entered the severe zone.

Continuing to shroud Delhi, a thick haze caused the air quality to deteriorate, breaching the severe category for the first time this season. Consequently, measures were swiftly implemented, including a ban on older vehicles.

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At 8 am on Friday, an alarming average Air Quality Index (AQI) of 464 (severe) was recorded, with certain areas like Mundka and Bawana nearing the peak limit at 498 and 496 respectively by 7:05 am. Except for Dilshad Garden at 367, all other stations registered severe AQI levels. In neighboring areas, Greater Noida and Faridabad showed AQIs of 473 and 442.

The plummeting air quality coupled with fog resulted in visibility dropping to 600 meters at Safdarjung and 500 meters at Palam. The India Meteorological Department forecaster predicted minimal changes throughout the day due to sluggish wind speeds not exceeding five km per hour.The deteriorating pollution prompted authorities to shut down schools for two days, affecting students up to the fifth grade.

On Thursday, Delhi’s 24-hour average AQI peaked at 392, narrowly missing the severe mark at 4 pm. Before midnight, the average AQI surged to 427, with Mundka at 453 and Anand Vihar at 449 topping the charts.

The worst AQI reading across the National Capital Region (NCR) on Thursday was in Greater Noida, standing at 402 (severe) by 4 pm. Meanwhile, Gurugram and Ghaziabad recorded AQIs in the poor category at 297 and 286, respectively.

Earlier, on Wednesday, Delhi’s AQI measured 362 (very poor), exacerbated by stagnant surface-level winds amplifying local sources of pollution. The city’s polluted air primarily stemmed from internal pollutants, compounded by the surging farm fires in Punjab and Haryana.

A northwesterly current on Thursday carried smoke from the increasing farm fires in Punjab and Haryana, recording 1,543 fires on Wednesday and 1,556 fires on Tuesday, nearly double the count from a week prior.

Delhi’s air was dominated by PM2.5, peaking at 242.7µg/m³ at 10 pm, with PM10 reaching 412µg/m³ at the same time. Both PM2.5 and PM10 levels surpassed India’s standards by over four times, although India’s pollution thresholds remain less stringent compared to global norms.

In response to the escalating pollution, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) enacted Stage 3 of the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap), incorporating stringent measures including a ban on private constructions and demolitions, with exceptions for non-polluting activities.

Amid concerns over the authorities’ reactive approach to the crisis, the air quality was projected to further deteriorate due to the ongoing farm fires, coupled with a predicted drop in temperatures ahead of Diwali.

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