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Delhi air pollution story so far: Rs 2,000 challan for odd-even violators; 5,000 security personnel to be deployed

Delhi breathed poison with pollutants touching calamitous levels, as a thick grey smog hung low across the region, prompting authorities to declare schools shut till Sunday, halt construction activities and ban entry of trucks in the city.

FP Staff November 09, 2017 18:46:58 IST
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Delhi air pollution story so far: Rs 2,000 challan for odd-even violators; 5,000 security personnel to be deployed

Highlights

11:25 (ist)

SAFAR study reveals dust storm in West Asia chief trigger behind smog crisis in Delhi

As Delhi and its neighbours spar over stubble burning, a Centre-run monitoring agency has identified a West Asian dust storm as the chief trigger behind the recent smog episode in the region.

On 8 November, the contribution of the dust storm was 40 percent, eclipsing the role of emissions from stubble burning, which stood at 25 percent, the Pune-based System of Air Quality And Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) said.

That was the day pollution levels peaked with PM2.5 concentration reaching 640 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3), according to the SAFAR scientific assessment report of the week-long pollution crisis accessed by PTI.

"Rest was made up of emissions from local sources such vehicular combustion. If external sources did not have any role, levels of PM2.5 during this period could have been around 200 µg/m3," the report stated.

10:38 (ist)

Driven out By Delhi smog, Costa Rica envoy says 'India I Love You, But...'

High level of air pollution in Delhi has affected the health of the Costa Rican envoy in New Delhi, prompting her to retreat to Bengaluru.

Ambassador of Costa Roca to India Mariela Cruz Alvarez appealed to the people, saying the "blue planet is crying" due to pollution.

In a personal blog post, she said: "This past weeks the levels of pollution in Delhi reached impossible numbers.  The consequences of breathing this air i had no idea-  until i reached Bangalore and my system collapsed.  My clean Costa rican lungs know nothing about air quality forecast,  particles of PM10 and its monitoring, the same as we know nothing about extreme changes in temperature.  I´m used to living in paradise and suddenly India has become a threat to my health and the health of my friends and colleagues."

10:34 (ist)

Farmers will need handouts worth $500 million a year to switch to alternative ways of disposing farm stubble

NITI Aayog, the government’s economic planning think-tank, has estimated farmers would need handouts worth about $500 million a year to switch to alternative ways of disposing farm stubble, said an official who was involved in the preparation of the report.

Another $100 million is needed to reward local bodies for adopting best practices and funding awareness campaigns, the official said.

09:36 (ist)

Only God can save us: Delhi officials

A major source of the smog at this time of year across northern India, including New Delhi, is farmers burning the stubble of the previous crop to prepare for new plantings in November.

An estimated $600 million is needed to provide farmers with alternatives, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition parties in power in New Delhi and nearby Punjab states are squabbling over who will pay, said three federal government officials who have been briefed on the situation.

“Nothing more is likely to happen this year,” said one of them. “We’re now praying. Only God can save us," Reuters quoted officials as saying. 

11:50 (ist)

26 trains delayed, six cancelled as temperature in capital drops below average

Six trains were cancelled and 26 were running late due to shallow fog in northern India, according to railway spokesperson. It was a misty Thursday morning in the national capital with the minimum temperature recorded at 13 degrees Celsius, which is a notch below the season's average.

11:45 (ist)

As smog looms large in Delhi, RTI plea reveals AAP govt spent only Rs 93 lakh out of Rs 787 crore environment money

While the National Capital Region continues to battle smog, an RTI query has revealed that the Delhi government utilised only Rs 93 lakh out of the Rs 787 crore it had collected as environment cess.

According to a report on CNN-News18, the RTI petition filed by Sanjeev Jain revealed that the Delhi government had received over Rs 50 crore as environment cess in 2015. However, there was a massive increase in collection in 2016 and 2017, when the AAP government collected Rs 386 crore and Rs 787 crore respectively.

Of this, Rs 93 lakh was paid to the South Delhi Municipal Corporation for payment towards pre-tendering incidental cost related to preparation of RFID documents, said a copy in India Today.

13:15 (ist)

Will carpooling help reduce pollution? 

"Force Ola/Uber to do a certain number of pool rides, to allow them to ply in the city. Forces them to incentivise pooling. Might make regular rides more expensive, so let them subsidise car-pooling. No carpooling allowed right now from airport," writes Nikhil Pahwa, founder of Medianama. 

12:30 (ist)

Kejriwal government made long term plans to curb pollution 

Long-term interventions and schemes to be coordinated or executed by the Environment Department and the MCDs included green crematoriums, 150-point city-wide real-time air pollution monitoring, PUC revamp, landfill bioventing, construction and demolition activity management, incentivising LPG, the idea of mohalla rasois, designs to end tandoor pollution, brick kiln redesign, market night cleaning, replanning of bus routes, congestion pricing, electric bus promotion, stringent parking policy and BRT redesign. 

10:40 (ist)

Two express trains were delayed by a day

The Rejandra Nagar Terminal-New Delhi Sampoorna Kranti Express was delayed by over 24 hours while the Sitamarhi-Anand Vihar Lichavi Express was delayed by over 25 hours.

10:11 (ist)

What government must do to curb pollution in Delhi

According to Nikhil Pahwa, the founder of Medianama, there are several solutions to alleviate the pollution problem. According to Pahwa, the authorities must stop trucks from plying within Delhi city limits between 6 am and midnight. He added that trucks and buses mixing kerosene and diesel should be impounded, and fined. Pahwa opined that buses from other states should be allowed to enter Delhi only if they meet certain pollution norms. 

09:50 (ist)

Ditch dumb odd-even, look at real solutions: Economic Times editorial

In its editorial, Economic Times criticised the odd-even plan and added that the AAP government must mobilise voluntary squads, which will educate people to not burn trash.

"Even as the capital’s sky darkened with smog over the last week, smoke spiralling up from heaps of burning trash could be spotted in different parts of the city. This must stop," the editorial read. 

09:43 (ist)

AAP government resolved to improve green cover in Delhi

After being elected in February 2015, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi government resolved to increase green cover of Delhi from the present 20 percent to 25 percent in the next five years, aided by tree plantation, census and audit. An overarching community-centric plan to improve the environment was also envisioned.

09:27 (ist)

United Airlines resumes flights to New Delhi

US-based carrier United Airlines has resumed flights between Newark, New Jersey and New Delhi after it was halted due to poor air quality, The Indian Express reported.

"UA Flight 82 has resumed operations, but we will continue to monitor conditions over the next few days”, a spokesman told Reuters.

08:46 (ist)

Schools to reopen on Monday after five-day break

All schools in the national capital will reopen on Monday after a five-day break announced by the Delhi government in view of the alarming air pollution levels, an official said on Sunday.

​"Schools will reopen tomorrow and the break is not being further extended," a Delhi government official told PTI.

15:03 (ist)

NGT orders AAP government to seize 10-year-old diesel and 15-year-old petrol vehicles

It also directed the AAP government and the traffic police to challan and seize 10-year-old diesel vehicles and 15-year-old petrol vehicles to curb air pollution in the city.

“The counsel appearing for NCT Delhi has informed that the site has already been provided for keeping the vehicles which are impounded/seized by the police being 10 years old vehicles in the case of diesel and 15 years old in the case of petrol.

“We direct the Commissioner of Police, Delhi to ensure that vehicles which are violating the above directions of the tribunal should be seized and compliance report be submitted to the tribunal on the next date of hearing,” the bench said.

PTI

14:22 (ist)

Smog a regular occurrence in Delhi 

The environmental concern raised by hazardous air quality in Delhi has become an annual feature now. People indulge in the intense discussion at the turn of every winter, only to forget the smog worries when the air becomes slightly breathable. But desperate and revolutionary measures should be adopted to tackle the menace, said experts.

14:18 (ist)

Recurring smog problem discouraging professionals from coming to Delhi 

The smog situation is also affecting the talent landscape of Delhi and NCR. Many professionals are being hesitant to take up career opportunities in and around Delhi and those who are working in Delhi are looking for career opportunities outside the state and opting for western or southern states of
the country.

14:12 (ist)

Companies allowing work-from-home for their employees

Media conglomerate Zee Entertainment enterprises has provided an anti-pollution mask to each employee and is allowing 'Work from Home' for employees who are suffering from severe respiratory problems. The organisation has also implemented the 'Flexi Working Hours' policy and has taken on board services of a doctor at its Noida office for 10 working days starting 9 November.

14:04 (ist)

NGT urges AAP government to discourage road-side parking 

The National Green Tribunal has directed the Delhi government and the municipal corporations to ensure availability of appropriate parking facilities for cars and discourage road-side parking. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar slammed authorities for not complying with its earlier orders to decongest traffic and asked them to take steps in a holistic manner.

13:35 (ist)

Why NGT's order to stop construction work may not work

The measure to stop construction activities is also to be implemented along with the co-operation of the Centre. The construction of roads is a turnaround scheme of the present regime at the Centre and many such construction projects going on in the capital are carried out by the National Highway Authority of India.

12:47 (ist)

Government formulated GRAP to tackle air pollution 

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), under the prodding of the Supreme Court, had come up with a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to control severe pollution in the NCR. The notification for the implementation of GRAP was done by the Ministry of Environment on 12 January this year.

12:36 (ist)

What did Beijing do to tackle air pollution? 

After Mexico, it was Beijing's turn to enjoy the dubious distinction of being the most polluted capital city in the world. Once the Chinese government set their mind on executing an action plan, they did not digress from their objectives. They came up with a tough plan where no new car licenses were given to Beijing citizens who were given the choice of car-pooling and the use of public transportation with no exceptions granted. The Chinese are switching over to renewable energy in a big way and are reducing their dependency on coal power plants.

12:10 (ist)

How Mexico city tackled air pollution is a lesson to Delhi

Mexico City faced the same problem in the early 90s and in 1992, it was dubbed the most polluted capital in the world. The Mexican government decided to put its act together and prepared a detailed contingency plan which included the compulsory use of catalytic converts in every car, major improvement in public transportation, and the preparation of an 'Atmospheric Environmental Contingency Plan’ which also includes the restriction of vehicular traffic that comes into operation every time PM 10 levels reach 221.

11:32 (ist)

Delhi puts citizens at risk as national capital's green cover shrinks rapidly 

As our politicians pass the buck with manful indiscrimination, not a single meaningful policy decision has been taken to tackle the basic issues involved, which include unbridled development of cities, lack of clean energy, and the abundant use of plastic, which includes not only plastic bags but thermocol as well. It is often used in temples when they dish out the free food. Then there’s the packaging industry. The list seems endless.

Read the full article here

11:25 (ist)

Why stopping trucks from Delhi is an impossible task

Stopping trucks from entering Delhi is nearly impossible for the government as there is no alternative for these heavy vehicles to pass by without entering the capital city. The Centre rolled out a scheme to construct an Eastern Peripheral Highway to allow the trucks go to Punjab and Uttar Pradesh without entering the capital. The road is still being constructed and is unlikely to be completed before March 2018, which is its latest deadline. 

11:16 (ist)

Only people's will can solve air pollution problem, says litigant

After the NGT passed the order to implement the odd-even scheme without any exemption, Vardhaman Kaushik, another appellant in the case told Firstpost that only the will of the people can solve the problem of air pollution in the national capital.

"People’s awareness in preserving the environment is the only solution. No court order can save us from pollution if it is not implemented as ordered," he said.

11:12 (ist)

Odd-even plan was implemented in two phases last year

The first phase of the odd-even rule was implemented by the Delhi government from 1 to 15 January and the second phase from 15 to 30 April  last year.

IANS

10:42 (ist)

Vote bank politics behind AAP government's exemptions?

People who moved NGT against the odd-even scheme say the exemptions are nothing but the politics of the AAP-led government. "The class of people who ride two-wheelers is the vote bank of AAP. If this class is not exempted than they fear that it might turn against the party," alleges Gaurav Kumar Bansal, the advocate of appellant Mahendra Pandey.

10:29 (ist)

Rise in PM 2.5 linked to heart diseases, lung cancer

Higher levels of PM 2.5, which are the fine pollution particles, are linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease. PM 2.5 regularly topped 500 this week, at one point going over 1,000, reports AFP.

10:24 (ist)

Threefold rise in patients number at hospitals, doctors say smog shortening lives

Doctors at the government-run Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute say patient numbers have more than tripled since pollution levels spiked amid a change in weather conditions and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in surrounding areas.  

10:19 (ist)

Why 300 and 500 mark in Air Quality Index (AQI) is important?

On Saturday, the NGT said that in future, the odd-even scheme should automatically come into force if the PM2.5 and PM10, particles in air with diameter less than 2.5 and 10 mm respectively, levels go above the 300 and 500 mark respectively for 48 hours.

21:34 (ist)

Citizens at risk as Delhi's green cover shrinks rapidly

For sheer hypocrisy, it's difficult to beat our politicians. Consider this: As of today, Delhi is very nearly the deadliest city on earth. The only other city rivaling us is a city in Mexico, which with an index of 825 particulate matter at the same level as Patna which is at 824.

The real-time pollution levels in major cities of the country prove that living in much of India can actually be hazardous to your health. Satellite imagery shows conclusively that almost all of western India is blanketed by "atmospheric brown cloud" which are layers of pollution containing soot, dust or other particles. In other words, when vacationing in Nainital/Mussoorie/wherever the Himalayas are, you are actually breathing in great lungfuls of poisoned air.

This is the result of "development with Indian characteristics".

Read more

21:22 (ist)

Drop in air quality

The concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 hovered around 490 and 290 micrograms per cubic metre during the morning hours of Saturday, marginally below the emergency limit of 500 and 300. But by 6 pm the readings had changed to 522 and 332. In fact, the gains made started diminishing from around 2 pm itself.


SAFAR's project director Gufran Beig said the drop in both the minimum and maximum temperatures led to the coming down of the boundary layer from around 1600 metres from the surface at 11 am to 50 metres at 5 pm.

"Otherwise our monitors recorded steady improvement over the last one day. The air had turned very poor from severe. In fact, the measures implemented under the Graded Response Action Plan yielded good results. Pollution levels came down by 15-20 per cent due to these measures alone," he said.

Read more

20:30 (ist)

Delhi's dwindling air quality 

The hourly graph of the Central Control Room for Air Quality Management run by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) captured the sudden change in circumstances.

Based on pollution levels till 5 pm, the CPCB's air quality index for Saturday had a score of 403, against Friday's 468.

Read more

19:42 (ist)
 
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) flayed the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) on Saturday for not maintaining its buses properly and running them without passengers for a major part of the day.
 
 
"Your buses create so much noise on the road. They are a great nuisance. Most of parts of your buses are either hanging in air or broken. Why don't you take proper steps for their maintenance. Either your buses run empty or they are over-loaded," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar observed.
 
 
The tribunal rapped the DTC chairman-cum-managing director for not taking note of an NGT order on maintenance of buses and carrying out a rationalisation study so that the vehicles can be used more effectively.
 
 
19:30 (ist)

Pollution in Delhi back to 'emergency'


Delhi's air quality went south and once again entered the 'emergency' category on Saturday evening, dashing hopes of recovery generated during the morning hours when level of pollutants showed a steady drop.

The dramatic reversal in the situation, hours after the government announced that levels of ultrafine particulates PM2.5 and PM10 had seen a reduction, caught people and weather scientists unaware.

Centre-run air monitoring agency SAFAR's project director Gufran Beig said that the sharp drop of the boundary layer where pollutants remained trapped for being unable to escape into the upper layer of the atmosphere.

"There is no likelihood of last week's repeat as there is no fresh influx of pollutants from external sources such as stubble burning or dust storm in the larger region. But recovery will get delayed by at least one more day," Beig said.

Read more

17:03 (ist)

Strong implementation and regulatory measures are required to end the calamity

Unless strong measures are not taken, doctors warn that India will witness a rising graph of respiratory, heat, cancer and other diseases. Already, neurological disorders have shown a sharp spike in the NCR from early October this year. We have crossed the tipping point in terms of air pollution. Drastic measures need to be implemented to prevent us from facing a health calamity of tremendous proportions.

Read full article here.

15:24 (ist)

AAP government disapproves of not exempting women drivers

Sources in the Delhi government have told CNN-News18 that they do not approve of women drivers being included in the odd-even policy. "It is incomprehensible to compromise on women safety. Delhi government cannot compromise on women safety," said the source.

14:23 (ist)

AAP government seeks to arially sprinkle water to alleviate smog problem 

The Delhi government on Friday said that it was in talks with state-owned helicopter service company Pawan Hans to aerially sprinkle water over the city to settle pollutants.

This came in wake of National Green Tribunal's (NGT) order on Thursday directing the government to track down all the hot spots with the PM10 more than 600 and spray water from helicopters or aircraft to tackle dust pollution across the city.

14:00 (ist)

Not just AAP government, NGT also slams NHAI, NBCC

The bench also issued notices to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) to show cause why exemplary cost should not be imposed on them for violation of its order putting a ban on construction activities.

13:58 (ist)

Recap: What's the odd-even scheme?

The car-rationing scheme, which was enforced twice in the national capital in 2016, will be in place between 13 and 17 November from 8 am to 8 pm. Under the policy, private vehicles are allowed to run based on the last number of their licence plates. Odd-numbered cars are allowed to run on odd dates while even-numbered cars can only run on even dates.

13:49 (ist)

Next NGT hearing on 14 November

The tribunal is hearing a plea for immediate action against the worsening air quality in Delhi-NCR, stating that it was an "environmental emergency" which was affecting children and senior citizens the most.

10:41 (ist)

Residents complain of headaches, coughs and smarting eyes

“Waking up with a headache, breathlessness & throat irritation every day,” Bhavani Giddu wrote on Twitter. Reuters reported many people stayed home and restaurants in some of the city’s most crowded parts were deserted.

“I’d like to assure people that the central government shall do everything possible to bring about improvement in air quality in Delhi and the Nation Capital Region,” central environment minister Harsh Vardhan said as authorities faced criticism for failing to take steps to fight a problem that erupts every year.

09:47 (ist)

EPCA chief Bhure Lal says odd-even plan ineffective to curb Delhi pollution

Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) chairman Bhure Lal told DNA there will hardly be any difference when odd and even numbered private vehicles will ply on roads on alternate days. 

"The government does not have enough number of buses to start the scheme, and with exemptions on two-wheelers, it will not have much effect," he reportedly said.

Lal said the announcement was made without any consultation with EPCA. "The government needs at least 2,000 (more) buses to start the third round of Odd-Even. The announcement was done without any consultation with ECPA. It will create unnecessary panic among the public at large," Lal said. 

09:09 (ist)

NASA photos show crop burning exacerbated before smog hit Delhi

NASA data shows that a rise in crop burning on 27, 29 and 31 October in Punjab led to adverse air quality in the Indo-Gangetic belt to dangerously high levels this week, said experts according to the Hindustan Times

“It takes about three to four days for the particulate matter to reach a city like Delhi from Punjab,” Sachchida Nand Tripathi, a professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, told the Hindustan Times.

Tripathi's team help analyse the NASA data. He further said that crop burning was to blame for the increase in particulate matter in Delhi-NCR and surrounding regions. 

08:29 (ist)

It's not just Delhi; air quality has been worsening across northern-Gangetic plain

An analysis of the Central Pollution Control Board’s AQI bulletin archives has shown that air quality has become worse across the northern-Gangetic region in places such as Lucknow, Agra, Kanpur and Muzzafarpur, reported The Indian Express. NASA's Aqua satellite on 7 November mapped the smog and air pollution in the plain. It showed a "natural-colour image of haze and fog" blanketing the region. The report also states the sensor showed an "aerosol optical depth" which points to "skies thick with aerosol pollution".

08:05 (ist)

Chandigarh records worst air quality ever

The Union Territory's air quality was its poorest on Wednesday, reported The Indian ExpressAs per latest data from the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee (CPCC) on Thursday, the 24-hour Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) in Chandigarh's industrial area on WEdnesday was 375, its worst ever. AAQ is measured by the pollutants and gases in the air.

14:37 (ist)

Air quality in UP's Moradabad is even worse than in Delhi

On Tuesday, the Air Quality Index in Uttar Pradesh's Moradabad touched 500, which is the highest the scale can measure, News18 reported. On the same day, Delhi had an AQI of 478.

In fact, apart from Moradabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and West Bengal's Howrah have a worse AQI than Delhi.

12:18 (ist)

Video of car pile-up on Yamuna Expressway shot last year, says report

The air quality index of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had a score of 487 on a scale of 500, indicating 'severe' levels of pollution.

In the midst of all this a video went viral on social media sites and WhatsApp groups showing a major pile-up of cars on the Yamuna Expressway due to low visibility caused by smog. Many major publications carried it as a portrayal of the current situation on the ground.

However, Outlook has reported that the video was, in fact, shot in 2016. The confusion might have been caused due to the fact that a similar accident did take place on the Yamuna Expressway on Monday morning. Hindustan Times reported that six people were injured when 13 vehicles piled up on the Expressway in Greater Noida's Dankaur area due to low visibility on Wednesday morning.

11:59 (ist)

Last year, in Beijing vs Delhi, national capital beat China at poorer air quality

Smog-ridden Beijing, often dubbed 'Greyjing' for its sickly air quality and thick blanket of smog, is arguably one of the world's most polluted city. However Delhi and Beijing remained neck and neck as last year's data said it's an equally bad place to breathe.

Last year this report in Firstpost quoted real time coverage data given out by aqicn.org, a website that tracks air quality in major cities across the world, New Delhi preceeded Beijing when it came to poor air quality. While aqicn.org ranked Beijing at 25 (Good) in its Air Quality Index, Delhi's map was awash in deep red, and purple flags.

The Indian capital was ranked at 552 (Hazardous) in deep red letters. The level of Particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) was especially alarming as it soared up to 999 during the day.

11:32 (ist)

'You've made a mess of Delhi': National Green Tribunal slams Kejriwal government

"You have made a mess of Delhi. You have done what you had to, now we will decide what you have to do. Why didn’t you issue any direction for shutting down polluting industries and construction. You did it yesterday as we told you to do so. Go to the hospital see number of patients that are being admitted,"  NGT tells Delhi government. 

09:43 (ist)

Delhi hits emergency air pollution category

Delhi officially hit the ‘severe plus’, or emergency category of air pollution, as the smog refused to abate, and the air quality index (AQI) stood at 493. Delhi NCR’s AQI read 480, according to the 7pm readings, News18 reports.

The Supreme Court constituted body, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) announced the ‘severe plus’ category, according to its Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). A series of emergency measures laid out in GRAP, will have to be immediately enforced by the Delhi government, the municipal corporation and all other authorities, which include, barring trucks, except those carrying essential commodities. 

The state government is also expected to arrive at a decision on odd-even scheme today. 

13:57 (ist)

Masks might not be the solution

Speaking to Outlook, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria said, "Masks are not very helpful as a lot of air can get inside from the sides. Also children and elderly find them very uncomfortable to use."

13:38 (ist)

Government aware of steps that it needs to take to fix this problem, but has not worked on fixing this public health emergency

Writing for Business Standard, Siddharth Singh argues that the government knows the causes and the solutions. However the histrionics which will put this crisis on the top of the policy agenda are as yet missing. He concludes by saying, "We need an ‘all of the above’ approach, and we need it starting yesterday."

11:32 (ist)

Eight people die everyday in Delhi due to pollution

Air pollution is responsible for 3,000 premature deaths in Delhi every year, according to The Hindu. That works out to eight deaths a day. Further, one in three Delhi kids has reduced lung function and high propensity for increased pulmonary haemorrhage.

09:11 (ist)

Ghaziabad schools closed

Ghaziabad schools will be closed due to declining air quality in the NCR region, according to The Indian Express. District Magistrate Ritu Maheshwari also said that construction activities in the region will be suspended for at least a week.

08:50 (ist)

Air Quality goes beyond maximum levels in some areas

Business Standard reported that air quality went beyond maximum levels in some parts of Delhi. According to the US Embassy's real-time air quality index, RK Puram faced AQI of 999 which is the highest possible rating.

08:46 (ist)

International publications take note of Delhi pollution

The Guardian noted that a public health emergency has been declared by doctors in Delhi after the air quality plunged to levels likened to smoking at least 50 cigarettes in a single day.

08:33 (ist)

Graded Action Plan kicks in

The Graded Action Plan kicked in after air quality hit "severe" levels, reported The Times of India. Some of the measures in place now include: Closure of brick kilns, hot-mix plants; shutting down of all stone crushers; more buses on roads; greater frequency of metro, lower fares in off-peak hours etc.

08:01 (ist)

IMA calls New Delhi a 'public health emergency state'

Hindustan Times quotes the Indian Medical Association (IMA) as describing New Delhi as a "public health emergency state" as suspended particulate matter in air stays at "hazardous" level on Tuesday across all monitoring stations.

07:28 (ist)

Arvind Kejriwal's request for appointment with Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan denied as latter is out of country

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sought an appointment with Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan, which was denied as the latter was in Germany to attend a climate change summit. A government official said the chief minister wanted to discuss with the Union minister the possible emergency measures required to bring down high pollution level.

"The chief minister has sought time from Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan. However, his (Vardhan) office replied that he is not available and is out (of country). A meeting would be possible only on 9 November," the official said.

07:16 (ist)

Next few days likely to be just as bad

The Times of India quoted experts as saying that the next few days are likely to be just as bad, as pollutants were accumulating due to calm wind conditions and high humidity, The sudden drop in air quality is a result of crop-burning pollutants coming in from Punjab and Haryana, and moisture coming in from Uttar Pradesh.

06:54 (ist)

Air Quality Index fell to its worst on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the air quality index in Delhi fell to its worst this year, 448 on a scale of 500, reported The Indian ExpressDeputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the government was ready to bring back the odd-and-even transport scheme and restrict trucks if there is an “emergency” (AQI above 500).

15:19 (ist)

Kejriwal calls city a gas chamber

Calling the city a 'gas chamber', Kejriwal said that every year at this time of the year the same situation was faced. He added that they needed to find a solution to the problem of crop burning practised in the neighbouring states.

LIVE NEWS and UPDATES

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:49 (IST)

Dean of Diplomatic Corps to meet external affairs ministry over poor air quality today

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:46 (IST)

Visibilty remains at 1,000 metres in Delhi

The humidity at 8.30 am. was 91 percent and visibility stood at 1,000 metres. There was no rain expected for a week, an IMD official said.

The maximum temperature is expected to hover around 25.5 degrees Celsius, which is two notches below the season's average.

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:40 (IST)

Delhi half marathon to take place despite smog crisis in city

The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon will go ahead as usual on 19 November despite requests from medical associations, activists to cancel the event, according to NDTVRunners exerting themselves in the smoggy air face the risk of lung damage and heart attacks, said KK Aggarwal, president of the Indian Medical Association, by phone, citing similar deaths in Beijing.  

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:34 (IST)

Gurugram professionals to take part in 'Car Free Challenge' from 20-26 November

A group of professionals from Gurugram are taking part in the #TheCarFreeChallenge from 20-26 November to combat air pollution. The effort is to "maximise the use of sustainable transport like bus, metro, etc." 

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:30 (IST)

Air quality 'very poor' in city: Delhi Traffic Police

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:28 (IST)

AAP failed to spend environment cess to curb Delhi pollution, says Opposition leader Vijender Gupta

Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta on Thursday alleged that the AAP government not only "failed" to spend the environment cess fund but also did not furnish quarterly details of expenditure from it to the Supreme Court and the EPCA as mandated by the court.

He alleged that the Delhi government did not spend a "single penny" of the environment compensation charge (ECC) to address the problem caused by rising air pollution. "Also they did not apprise the Supreme Court of the same and kept the people in dark," Gupta alleged.

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:25 (IST)

SAFAR study reveals dust storm in West Asia chief trigger behind smog crisis in Delhi

As Delhi and its neighbours spar over stubble burning, a Centre-run monitoring agency has identified a West Asian dust storm as the chief trigger behind the recent smog episode in the region.

On 8 November, the contribution of the dust storm was 40 percent, eclipsing the role of emissions from stubble burning, which stood at 25 percent, the Pune-based System of Air Quality And Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) said.

That was the day pollution levels peaked with PM2.5 concentration reaching 640 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3), according to the SAFAR scientific assessment report of the week-long pollution crisis accessed by PTI.

"Rest was made up of emissions from local sources such vehicular combustion. If external sources did not have any role, levels of PM2.5 during this period could have been around 200 µg/m3," the report stated.

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:23 (IST)

NGT allows trucks to enter Delhi; asks states to submit report in two weeks

NGT permits trucks to enter Delhi on Friday and directed neighbouring states to submit action plan on steps to curb pollution within two weeks. 

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:20 (IST)

Image: Mahatma Gandhi's statue wears a mask

A policeman removes the anti-pollution mask from the Gandhi Statue at Gyarah Murti which was put by rebel AAP MLA Kapil Misra and BJP MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa during their protest against smog and air-pollution, in New Delhi on Thursday. 

Image courtesy: PTI

Nov 17, 2017 - 11:15 (IST)

Meanwhile, Mahatma Gandhi's statue being protected from the smog

Delhi breathed poison with pollutants touching calamitous levels, as a thick grey smog hung low across the region, prompting authorities to declare schools shut till Sunday, halt construction activities and ban entry of trucks in the city.

Lt Governor Anil Baijal approved the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority's decision to enforce these measures enlisted under the 'severe plus' or emergency category of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in a meeting attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

A decision on whether or not to implement the odd-even car-rationing scheme will be taken, the EPCA said.

"The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) task force has advised EPCA that given the prevailing air pollution emergency in the city, there is a need to take actions which are listed in the severe plus category," it said.

Authorities in the city scrambled to tackle the extraordinary situation as hospitals recorded a surge in the number of patients complaining of respiratory problems, reminiscent of the '1952 Great Smog of London'.

After Diwali last year, Delhi witnessed a similar episode of smog which lasted nearly a week, prompting authorities to declare such emergency measures for the first time in the city's history.

Delhi air pollution story so far Rs 2000 challan for oddeven violators 5000 security personnel to be deployed

Representational image. PTI

The smog, which triggered near zero visibility at many places, pile-ups on highways and delay in flight operations, is a mixture of carbon monoxide, particulate matter such as PM2.5, PM10, ground level ozone and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide, the Delhi government said in a health advisory.

The government also announced that all schools in the national capital would remain closed till Sunday in view of the "unbearable" air pollution.

The metro and Delhi Transport Corporation announced decisions to augment services by pressing more trains and buses into service, in a bid to reduce dependence on private vehicles.

On Twitter, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it was "an emergency" and that his office was "continuously trying" to fix a meeting with his counterparts in Punjab and Haryana on stubble burning, a practice which aggravates air pollution in Delhi.

However, EPCA member Sunita Narain cautioned against putting too much hope in temporary solutions such as closure of schools and deplored the "lack of political will" in executing tougher decisions.

Subsequently, the LG directed that agencies such as the municipal corporations and the Delhi Metro should strictly enforce the decisions taken by the EPCA, including hiking parking fares by four times.

The civic bodies were dilly-dallying in executing the EPCA's orders. However, it was decided that metro will not have to slash commuting fares temporarily as it already has a differential pricing system for peak and off-peak hours in place.

In its health advisory, the government said people should stay indoors as much as possible as the "smog is poisonous" and may create many health hazards like asthma attacks and other breathing complications.

The day-long average air quality index of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had a score of 478 on a scale of 500, indicating 'severe' levels of pollution, while many individual stations recorded AQI as high as 487.

If the score touches 500 and persists there for at least 48 hours, measures like odd-even and a ban on construction and demolition activities will come into force across the Delhi-NCR under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot told PTI that the government was ready to implement the odd-even car-rationing scheme and arrangements were underway to press more buses into service.

"We will enforce odd-even in Delhi if air quality turns severe plus. I have also directed DTC to procure 500 buses on short-term basis to augment public transport till March. Metro has also been asked to hire around 300 buses for 15-20 days if odd-even is implemented," Gahlot said, adding that two-wheelers will be exempted from the scheme as and when it is rolled out.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited (DMRC) said it would run an additional 186 train trips from tomorrow.

"Cities and administrations need to implement solutions and take bold decisions to reduce emissions. The range of actions recommended and directed by the EPCA is targeted at doing just that, and it is now up to the political leadership of Delhi and NCR to take their implementation forward," Narain, who is also the chief of the Centre For Science and Environment (CSE), said.

The EPCA had made it clear yesterday that its orders were legally binding and had to be enforced once the chief secretaries of the respective states issue them.

It was the Environment Ministry which, in January, had empowered the EPCA through a gazette notification to enforce the GRAP to combat air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region.

Meanwhile, in incidents of pile-ups at multiple locations on the busy Yamuna Expressway over 20 vehicles collided and around 22 people suffered minor injuries during the morning hours when visibility was a measly 10 metres.

For the second day in a row, operations at the Delhi airport were hampered and there were delays of up to two hours. Airport sources said that there were times when only one runway was operable as visibility dropped in the afternoon.

According to the forecast of the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences' System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), the 24-hour-average concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10 will be around 420 and 678 micrograms per cubic metre.

The corresponding safe standards of these ultra-fine particulates, up to 30 times finer than the width of a human hair, are 60 and 100, respectively.

The secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Madhavan Rajeevan, said the smog in Delhi is not localised, but spread across the entire region. He said the conditions would persist for another two-three days.

The SAFAR suggested that the "sudden" intrusion of pollutant-laden smoke from neighbouring Punjab and Haryana from the night of November 6 led to the spike as the high quantity of moisture in the city's air trapped the particulates.

"There is absolutely no wind movement. Moreover, temperature is also not coming down substantially which could have resulted in the conversion of the fog into water and subsequent dispersion of the suspended particulates," CPCB scientist Dipankar Saha explained.

Apart from Delhi, neighbouring Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Noida were also in the 'severe' category.

Residents of the city complained of heavy breathing and watery eyes as the smog did not even spare living rooms or underground metro stations. In London smog of 1952 about 4,000 people had died prematurely when average PM levels were about 500 micrograms per cubic metre along with high SO2 levels.

On Wednesday, with a score of 448 in a scale of 500, the air quality index was at the year's worst. The Indian Medical Association had declared a "public health emergency" and appealed to the government to stop outdoor sports and other such activities in schools to protect the health of children.

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