The National Capital is grappling with a persistent ‘severe’ air quality situation for the fifth consecutive day, as reported by the Central Pollution Control Board. The latest data from the System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR-India) reveals an air quality index (AQI) reading of 488, which is a significant increase from the previous day’s 410.
In response to this alarming trend, Delhi’s Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, has summoned a meeting of various concerned departments to address the escalating pollution crisis. The primary objective of this gathering is to ensure the stringent implementation of GRAP-4 (Graded Response Action Plan Stage IV).
This move follows the Commission for Air Quality Management’s (CAQM) decision to invoke Stage IV of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for the entire National Capital Region (NCR) on Sunday. Stage IV measures are being added to the existing restrictions in Stages I to III.
Under GRAP Stage-IV, key restrictions include the prohibition of truck traffic entering Delhi, with exceptions for trucks transporting essential goods and providing essential services, including LNG/CNG/electric trucks. Additionally, Delhi-registered diesel-operated Medium Goods Vehicles (MGVs) and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) will be banned from operating in Delhi, except for those carrying essential commodities or providing essential services.
Moreover, the NCR state governments and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) are encouraged to consider discontinuing physical classes for students in classes VI-IX and class XI, favoring online instruction.
The severity of the air quality crisis is evident as the AQI soars well beyond recommended levels. For a healthy individual, an AQI below 50 is advisable, but the current levels exceeding 400 pose a grave risk, particularly for individuals with respiratory conditions, and could even lead to lung cancer.
The major contributors to this pollution predicament are the rampant incidents of stubble burning in the neighboring states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Punjab. In a parallel scenario, Bathinda, Punjab, is also experiencing ‘very poor’ air quality with an overall Air Quality Index of 215. Local residents are pleading with the government to take immediate action to halt farmers from setting fire to crop residues, as the air pollution crisis in the region continues to worsen.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has emphasized the urgency of preventive and control measures to combat air pollution in these cities, ensuring a healthier and safer environment for their residents.