People commute along a street amid smoggy conditions in New Delhi.

(Sunil Kataria/TOI, BCCL, Delhi)

Friday, October 21: Delhiites woke up to fairly sunny skies but a ‘poor’ Air Quality Index (AQI) this morning for the second consecutive day. And the national capital might experience a further spike in air pollution levels in the days to come.

According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), the overall AQI in Delhi stood at 262 as of 3 PM on Friday, with the PM2.5 at 109 and PM10 at 228.

However, some parts of Delhi-NCR have recorded ‘very poor’ air quality today, with Anand Vihar registering the highest AQI of 382 on Friday. Localities like Punjabi Bagh, Pusa, Shadipur, Mundka, Wazripur, Ashok Vihar, Mandir Marg, Dwarka-sector 8 and Jahangirpuri have all recorded AQIs in the ‘poor’ range.

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 to 100 is ‘satisfactory’, 101 to 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 to 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 to 500 ‘severe’.

Meanwhile, the air quality is likely to remain in the ‘very poor’ category on October 22, 23 and 24. And in the subsequent six days, the AQI is likely to fall in the ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ category, although further deterioration remains a genuine possibility due to the likelihood of firecracker burning during the Diwali week.

The pollution levels will remain under control on Friday due to mild surface winds from the East and Southeast directions gusting to 8-10 kmph causing weak dispersion of the particulate matter. Fire counts or emissions over the northwest region are gradually increasing, but their impact on Delhi’s air quality is meagre due to unfavourable transport level wind flow.

The weeks between late October and early November are always a challenging time for Delhi’s air quality. The southwest monsoon has withdrawn by then, temperatures begin to drop, farmers start to burn the stubble to prepare their fields for the next sowing season, and then there’s Diwali.

In view of these conditions, sensitive groups have been advised against prolonged or heavy exertion, to take more breaks and avoid intense activities. Asthmatics are asked to keep their medications at hand if symptoms of coughing or shortness of breath occur. And heart patients must seek medical attention in case of palpitations, shortness of breath or unusual fatigue.

Since the AQI might breach 300 on October 22, Stage II of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) will be invoked in the entire NCR with immediate effect, the CAQM tweeted.

Stage two of the GRAP is a set of anti-air pollution measures followed in the capital and its vicinity according to the severity of the situation. Under this, the use of diesel generators, except for essential services, is banned.

On the bright side, a report by the Centre for Science and Environment said that the average PM2.5 pollution in Delhi in the winter season has declined by about 20% as compared to the pre-pandemic period. However, the activity during Diwali might have a considerable impact on Delhi’s AQI.

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