With air quality in the Delhi-National Capital Region remains a cause of worry for both authorities and its residents, the latter on Tuesday stressed the need for immediate steps to redress the situation and offered varied suggestions. “This morning, visibility was so bad. I moved out to my balcony for fresh air, but couldn’t even breathe (properly). There wasn’t any other option but to move inside,” Shipra Mehta of Lajpat Nagar told IANS. “Environmental issues that need to be treated very seriously are unfortunately always brushed aside by both the people and authorities. I really feel that the government needs to pay more attention to the menace,” she said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, describing the city as a “gas chamber”, blamed stubble-burning in adjoining and nearby states for the hazardous air pollution levels. “Delhi has become a gas chamber. It happens every year in these months. We have to find a solution to stubble-burning in nearby states,” he said in a tweet. Shweta, a resident of Ghaziabad in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, said: “Every time we are looking for someone else to blame. Last year, it was stubble-burning in Punjab and Haryana. Delhi needs to take charge to find a solution to its problems,” she said.

Of the multiple reasons impacting the capital’s environment, she said the burning of garbage was one of them. “It was banned a long time ago but continues to occur all the time.” People made suggestions to tackle the problem. “The government should push for more public transport. People on their part should also take charge to curb this disastrous problem,” said Ashok Narwal, 42, an asthmatic patient. “Diesel vehicles should be banned and more and more compressed natural gas pumps be installed. People should be encouraged to ride bicycles to cover small distances.”

Others said they experienced health issues due to polluted air, including irritation or breathing difficulties during outdoor activities. “This increasing pollution is taking a toll on the Delhi people. I couldn’t go out for my regular cycling today (Tuesday) because of smog,” Rajat Verma, 35, told IANS. Priyanka from Yamuna Vihar also demanded improvement in the public transport system. “It feels bad when people don’t act responsibly even in taking small steps. They don’t even turn off their vehicles at traffic red lights,” she said.

“We should plant more trees since deforestation is also leading to pollution,” said Aman, 22, from Ghaziabad. Harsha Agarwal, 28, blamed Diwali firecrackers for the poor air quality in the region. “The campaign against firecrackers cannot start a week before the festival nor on Diwali day. People in my locality were bursting crackers even days after the festival. The government didn’t take serious steps to control pollution.” According to Central Pollution Control Board data, average Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi at 3 p.m. on Tuesday was 446 — with major pollutant PM 2.5, or particles with a diameter less than 2.5 mm recorded at 418 units.

This is worse than AQI of 403 for October 20, a day after Diwali.