Waiting to exhale

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Waiting to exhale

Monday, 20 November 2023 | Pioneer

Waiting to exhale

Delhi's air quality improves marginally, but that is no reason to lower the guard just yet

In the smog-heavy and pollution-laden environment that defines the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) in the winter months, this is as exciting as it gets. Notorious for severe pollution, the Capital is witnessing a positive turn as the toxic air levels come down somewhat and schools reopen today. The improved air quality is a welcome respite for residents who have long grappled with hazardous pollution conditions. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the battle may have been won, but the war is far from over. Regretfully, the authorities can claim little credit for this sudden and pleasant development, for it can be traced easily to conducive weather conditions. Over the weekend, Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) registered significant improvement, if it can be called that, transitioning from 'severe' to 'very poor.' The positive shift prompted the Government to reopen all schools in the Capital; however, outdoor sports activities and the morning assembly in the open will not be held at least this week. The sub-committee on the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) revoked its invocation of Stage IV, which had mandated stringent measures to combat the pollution. The Commission for Air Quality Management has lifted Stage IV of GRAP, allowing the entry of medium and heavy goods vehicles into the Capital. All this signals a degree of confidence in the improving air quality scenario, but it also underscores the need for continuous monitoring and proactive measures to sustain the current improvement going forward.

The AQI level in Delhi is hovering around 300+, which is still way above the acceptable limit, categorising the air quality as 'very poor.' Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Greater Noida, Noida and Faridabad are also in the same bracket, making the NCR one of the most polluted regions across the world. Logically and medically speaking, the 'very poor' air quality level must be taken seriously and no outdoor activity should be permitted as it drastically heightens the risk of asthma and other bronchial diseases. Children, the elderly and the already sick can be adversely affected by high PM 2.5 levels as particulate matter can seep deep into their blood stream and make them sick. Meanwhile, as the NCR slowly steps into a new phase of cautious reopening, all the residents, authorities and educational institutes must work collaboratively to ensure the well-being of the community. Implementing sustainable practices, promoting green initiatives and adhering to pollution control measures will be crucial in maintaining and improving the falling air quality in the region. While the immediate future appears promising, a long-term commitment to environmental consciousness is imperative for the well-being of the NCR's residents. The Government must make concerted efforts to deal with the problem which is not only a blot on the capital but also a health hazard.

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