GRAP Stage IV: Amidst the ongoing battle with hazardous air quality, Delhi-NCR continues to grapple with an air pollution crisis of alarming proportions. The situation has prompted stringent measures and an emergency meeting, as the region remains shrouded in hazardous smog. Despite concerted efforts to combat the issue, unfavorable wind conditions and increased farm fires across northern India have led to a persistent toxic haze that has engulfed the region for seven consecutive days.
The Persistent Shroud of Smog
The air quality in Delhi-NCR has been in the ‘severe plus’ category for the second consecutive day, November 6th, 2023, causing significant health problems, especially for those who have pre-existing respiratory issues. According to the latest data from the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the average Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi was a staggering 471. This highlights the severity of the problem, as an AQI above 450 falls into the ‘severe plus’ category, indicating the need for immediate action.
Local Impact: From Anand Vihar to IGI Airport
Various monitoring stations across Delhi have reported alarming air quality levels. For instance, at the Anand Vihar station, PM 2.5 levels reached a jaw-dropping 500, while CO and NO2 were under the ‘moderate’ category. Bawana faced a similar situation, with PM 2.5 at 500 and PM 10 at 460, both categorized as ‘severe.’ Dwarka Sector 8 and the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport T3 area also witnessed ‘severe’ levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10, while CO remained under the ‘moderate’ category.
GRAP Stage IV: Emergency Measures and Delhi CM’s Meeting
In response to the escalating pollution crisis, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called for an emergency meeting today to devise strategies for controlling pollution. While there has been a slight improvement in Delhi’s AQI compared to the previous day, it remains in the ‘severe’ category. The meeting aims to address the implementation of GRAP-4, the Graded Response Action Plan, which serves as a comprehensive guideline for managing air quality in various stages of severity.
Regional Impact: Neighbouring States Also Affected
The air pollution crisis extends beyond Delhi’s borders, with several cities in neighbouring states, including Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, grappling with hazardous air quality. Ghaziabad’s Loni, Noida’s Sector 62, Greater Noida’s Knowledge Park III area, Gurugram’s Gwal Pahari area, and Faridabad’s New Industrial Town reported severe AQI levels. The situation demands immediate attention and collaborative efforts from all affected regions.
GRAP Stage IV Measures Take Effect
As the 24-hour average AQI worsened from 415 to 454 over a day, the central government implemented all emergency measures outlined in Stage IV of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). The GRAP categorizes actions into four stages, with Stage IV being the most severe, indicating an AQI exceeding 450. Under Stage IV, only CNG, electric, and BS VI-compliant vehicles from other states can enter Delhi, with exceptions granted only to essential services. Additionally, all medium and heavy goods vehicles not engaged in essential services are banned in the capital.
Moreover, the capital has also banned polluting trucks from entering the city, except for those carrying essential items. Light commercial vehicles registered outside Delhi, which are not electric, CNG, or BS VI-compliant, are also prohibited from entering the city unless they transport essential commodities.
GRAP Stage IV: Commission for Air Quality Management’s Recommendations
The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), responsible for formulating strategies to combat pollution in the region, has recommended banning construction related to linear public projects and allowing 50% of government and private office staff to work from home. The CAQM’s directives align with efforts to mitigate the pollution crisis, with non-essential construction work and specific categories of polluting vehicles already banned in Delhi. Additionally, primary schools in Delhi will remain closed for two days to safeguard young children from hazardous pollution.
The Impact on Public Health
Data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicates that Delhi’s air quality index increased by over 200 points between October 27 and November 3, reaching the ‘severe plus’ category. The concentration of PM2.5, a fine particulate matter capable of causing health problems, far exceeded safe limits, posing severe health risks.
Challenges Ahead: An Ongoing Battle
The air pollution crisis in Delhi-NCR remains a severe challenge, impacting not only the residents of the national capital but also neighbouring states. While emergency measures and pollution control plans are in effect, the battle against air pollution persists, and the health and well-being of millions remain a significant concern. Collaborative efforts and sustained measures are essential to address this pressing issue and provide residents with cleaner and safer air to breathe.