The air crisis in Delhi has reached such an extent that a downgrade in pollution levels from 'severe' to 'poor' also seems like a huge relief for the people of the national capital. After an extended bout of hazardous levels of pollution, the air quality in the national capital and its adjoining areas on Wednesday fell in the 'poor category' due to the positive influence of high-speed winds.
On the third day of the Odd-Even scheme in Delhi, air quality saw significant improvement with the AQI level on Wednesday morning being recorded as 276 or 'poor' according to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor' and 401-500 'severe'. An AQI above 500 falls in the 'severe plus' category.
However, a layer of smog continues to cover the sky in the national capital. Visuals from the area around India Gate where the air quality remains in the 'Unhealthy' category this morning show that visibility is still impacted by pollution. The visibility was poor creating problems for the joggers and the commuters.
Today, children have also returned to schools as the extended Diwali break came to an end. Schools across NCR had been closed till November 5 owing to the deepening air quality crisis.
Delhi's air quality has been improving since Monday, giving respite to people suffering due to acute pollution for a week, and the trend is likely to continue for a couple of days. However, a senior Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) official said the apex anti-pollution body has been keeping a close watch on the farm fires in Punjab which peaked to the season's high of 6,668 on Tuesday.
Winds bring relief
The India Meteorological Department said winds gusting up to 25 kmph were flushing out pollutants faster.
"There are good chances of rains in northwest India on Wednesday night and Thursday due to a western disturbance. The precipitation will cover Delhi-NCR, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh," head of IMD's regional weather forecasting centre of Kuldeep Srivastava, said.
He said the situation will not be similar to that of Sunday when high humidity due to light rains led to the formation of more potent secondary particles.
Meanwhile, miffed at the deterioration in air quality in Delhi over the past few days, the Supreme Court on Monday called the chief secretaries of three states - Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh--to appear in person on Wednesday to report to it on the matter. The apex court on Tuesday also summoned the Delhi Chief Secretary.
As authorities considered various options to put an end to stubble burning, a top Agriculture ministry official mooted crop diversification and shift to a short duration paddy crop to reduce the problem.
Delhi govt claims Odd-Even successful
People were "religiously" following the odd-even rule, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed on Tuesday, even as the number of challans issued for violating the road rationing scheme increased on the second day.
He said the number of challans issued went up on Tuesday as many were let off with a warning on the first day of the odd-even rule.
In a press briefing, Sisodia said: "Delhi is religiously following the odd-even scheme. Many people were only warned yesterday to follow the odd-even rule and they were not challaned."
The day two of the odd-even rule was "very successful" and the air quality has improved, he said, adding "The smog crisis is reducing gradually. We are monitoring the situation and weather condition, and hope that no fresh smoke from stubble burning will enter Delhi."
"People are very happy with traffic on the roads because they can now reach their destinations easily due to less congestion. This has further helped reduce pollution since commuting time of on-road vehicles has reduced significantly," the deputy chief minister said.