Delhi’s air quality was severe for a third day in a row on Saturday, aided by poor weather conditions which are forecast to improve Sunday onwards.
The city also witnessed very dense fog in the early morning hours from 1 am to 9 am, during which visibility dropped up to 0 metres, as per the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Poor visibility led to delay of over 40 flights at the Delhi airport and also 24 trains, officials said. A Delhi airport official said, “There were no diversions or cancellations but flight operations at the airport had become very slow.”
In view of the severe air quality, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) Friday directed closure of stone crushers and hot mix plants in Delhi-NCR until January 20 under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
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It also directed state pollution control boards to increase frequency of mechanised cleaning of roads, sprinkling water on stretches with high dust generation and ensuring that guidelines for dust mitigation at construction sites are followed.
“Agencies must ensure that there are no incidences of open burning of wood, garbage, biomass or industrial waste. In case of violation, penalty should be imposed in accordance to law,” a letter from CPCB chairman to state pollution control boards in the NCR said.
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The 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) of Delhi on Saturday was 407 in the severe range, as per the CPCB. It was lower than 460 recorded on Friday and 429 on Thursday.
AQI of NCR towns Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Noida were also in the severe category on Saturday, while that of Gurgaon was very poor.
VK Soni, head of the IMD’s Environment Monitoring and Research Centre, said, “Air quality has deteriorated due to calm winds, which do not help in dispersion of pollutants suspended in the air. The wind speed is expected to pick up Sunday onwards, which would improve the AQI to the very poor category.”
A bulletin from the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor SAFAR said the AQI would be in the higher end of the very poor category on Sunday and Monday and further improvement is expected later.
The IMD has again forecast very dense fog in the city on Sunday. The minimum and maximum temperature in Delhi was 6.6 and 19.1 degrees Celsius and is forecast to rise by one degree on Sunday.