Delhi’s air still ‘very poor’ despite emergency measures

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Air pollution remained high in the Indian capital on Thursday, a day after authorities indefinitely shut schools and shut some power stations, engulfing the city for more than a month.

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New Delhi’s air quality remained “very poor”, according to India’s main environmental monitoring agency SAFAR. It said that the concentration of tiny airborne particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter – known as PM 2.5 – is close to 300 micrograms per cubic meter in some parts of the city.

The World Health Organization designates the maximum safe level as 25. Small particles can remain in the lungs and other organs, causing long-term health damage.


New Delhi, a city with a population of 20 million, is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Air quality often reaches dangerous levels during winter, when burning of crop residues in neighboring states leads to low temperatures that trap fumes. Smoke obscures the sky as far as New Delhi.

Emergency measures went into effect on Wednesday in an effort to contain the health crisis.

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Schools were closed indefinitely and staff were asked to allow half their staff to work from home for a week. Some coal-fired power stations outside New Delhi were ordered to shut down and construction activities halted.

However, these measures are expected to have little effect.

Meanwhile, the New Delhi state government is weighing whether to lock down the capital after India’s Supreme Court last week sought an “imminent and emergency” action plan to deal with the crisis.

The concentration of PM 2.5 has exceeded WHO safe levels by nearly 15 times over several days in November and forecasters have warned that the pollution is likely to worsen in the coming days.

The problem of pollution in New Delhi is due to various reasons.

According to the federal government, auto emissions contribute about 25% of the city’s pollution in winter. Other sources of air pollution include emissions from industries, smoke from firecrackers associated with festivals, construction dust and agricultural burning.

Several studies have estimated that more than one million Indians die every year from diseases related to air pollution.

In 2020, 13 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India, according to Swiss air quality monitoring company IQAir.


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