At 7 am on a misty Saturday morning, Delhi found itself ensconced in a shroud of pollution, with 25 out of 34 active monitoring stations registering ‘severe’ air quality conditions. Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range led the grim statistics with an Air Quality Index (AQI) reading of 455, closely followed by Shadipur at 451 and Anand Vihar at 448. The persistent ‘severe’ air quality level marked the city’s third consecutive day of such hazardous conditions, a worrying trend that began after the AQI breached the 400-mark on Thursday evening, marking the first occurrence of this severity during the current season.
The 24-hour average AQI recorded at 7 am on Saturday was 413, representing a slight improvement from the previous day’s 4 pm reading of 468, which marked the worst AQI Delhi had witnessed since November 2021. In the areas surrounding Delhi, the situation was no better, with Faridabad recording an AQI of 460, Noida at 440, Sonipat at 374, and Greater Noida’s air quality plummeting to a shocking 494.
While wind speeds had been nearly still in Delhi on Friday, they picked up in certain parts of the city after 2 pm, gradually contributing to an overall improvement in air quality, resulting in a relatively better Saturday morning. This positive shift prevented the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in the National Capital Region (NCR) from invoking measures classified under the ‘severe plus’ or stage 4 of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on Friday, despite the AQI reaching a peak of 475 at noon.
Measures under the ‘severe plus’ category can be implemented when the AQI surpasses the 450-mark or is anticipated to breach this threshold, as indicated by forecasts. The GRAP categorizes actions into four stages: Stage I – ‘Poor’ (AQI 201-300); Stage II – ‘Very Poor’ (AQI 301-400); Stage III – ‘Severe’ (AQI 401-450); and Stage IV – ‘Severe Plus’ (AQI >450).
On a related note, the Centre’s pollution control panel had already enacted stage 3 of GRAP on Thursday, which led to the suspension of non-essential construction work, stone crushing, and mining activities in Delhi-NCR. This stage also imposed restrictions on the operation of BS III petrol and BS IV diesel four-wheelers in areas including Delhi, Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, and Gautam Budh Nagar. As Delhi continues to grapple with its air quality crisis, stringent measures are being put in place to mitigate the health risks associated with the persistent pollution levels.