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After a brief 48-hour let-up, pollution levels spiked in Delhi and NCR on Sunday. Seriousness of the situation can be gauged from fact that environmental agencies consider the air unfit for inhalation even by healthy people.
The Central Control Room for Air Quality Management recorded the hourly graph of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration — which had briefly fallen below emergency levels on Saturday — at 478 and 713 micrograms per cubic metre by Sunday afternoon. The 24-hour safe standards are 60 and 100 respectively. Visibility came down below 100 metres at many places.
Meanwhile, the MeT department predicted moderate fog in Delhi on Monday morning but mostly clear sky during the day. Light rain has been predicted on November 14 and 15, which, the MeT officials said, could clear the smog, giving some relief to people.
The US Embassy website on Sunday showed levels of airborne fine particulate matter (commonly referred to as PM 2.5 because they are less than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter), reach 676, about 27 times the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s safe maximum, after falling slightly late last week.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had a score of 460 as against Saturday’s 403. The most dominant pollutants were PM 2.5 and CO, according to the CPCB air bulletin.
People complained of burning sensation in their eyes and heaviness in breathing, reflecting the severity of the pollution.
The PM2.5 reading of the Centre-run SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) was also above 400, which is in the severe category as well.
If the prevailing levels of PM2.5 and PM10 persist for another 24 hours, the odd-even scheme is supposed to be implemented, according to the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) being enforced by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Saturday said the odd-even scheme should be implemented by default without any exemption as and when PM (particulate matter) 10 level goes above 500 microgrammes per cubic metre and PM 2.5 level crosses the limit of 300 microgrammes per cubic metre during a span of 48 hours.
The CPCB and SAFAR scientists maintained that the fresh spike in pollution was triggered mainly due to drop in inversion layer (the layer beyond which pollutants cannot disperse into the upper layer of the atmosphere), which in turn happened due to sharp drop in minimum and maximum temperatures.
The CPCB’s air lab chief Dipankar Saha said the haze was basically a mixture of dust and moisture. Formation of a thick cloud cover also resulted in the spike in moisture and drop in both minimum and maximum temperatures, he said.
The minimum temperature on Sunday touched 13 degrees Celsius, one notch below the season’s average, while the maximum temperature was recorded at 28.4 degrees Celsius. Humidity levels oscillated between 98 per cent and 51 per cent.
The national Capital has been experiencing dense smog for the past a few days forcing authorities to enforce emergency measures such as banning civil construction and demotion activities and brick kilns due to worsening air
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