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Capital gas chamber, AAP to blame: Union Minister WORST IN NCR Delhi AQI 376 Faridabad 346 Noida 339 Ghaziabad 332 Gurugram 310

The air quality in Delhi continued to remain in the “very poor” category as the 24-hour Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 376. The situation was equally bad in other NCR cities with AQI of Noida slipping to 339 and that of Gurugram to 310. An AQI of more than 400 is considered “severe” and can affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing illnesses.

The Delhi Government has advised people to work from home and use shared transport to reduce vehicular emissions, a major contributor to air pollution in the Capital.

“We are following the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) and accordingly banned all construction work, barring some essential projects,” said Environment Minister Gopal Rai. CM Arvind Kejriwal has announced Rs 5,000 per month financial aid to labourers hit by the ban on construction work.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights asked the Delhi Government to shut schools till air quality improves. Rai said the request would be forwarded to the Commission for Air Quality Management, which would take a call on the matter.

Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav blamed the AAP government for turning the Capital into a “gas chamber”. Yadav said, “Punjab witnessed over 19 per cent rise in farm fires over 2021, while Haryana saw a 30.6 per cent decline. There were 3,634 incidents in Punjab on Wednesday alone.”

Rai attacked the BJP, saying it was politicising the issue of air pollution. “The BJP favoured polluting activities opposed the ban on firecrackers, stopped the implementation of ‘red light on, gaadi off campaign and is violating the ban on polluting activities. It is now playing politics over the issue,” Rai alleged.

Meanwhile, forecasters said the air quality in Delhi was likely to slip back into the “severe” category on Thurs-day and Friday due to the impact of stubble-burning. However, the situation was predicted to improve on Saturday on the back of strong surface-level wind speed.

“The Centre gave Rs 1,347 crore for crop residue management machines to Punjab. The state bought 1,20,000 machines. Of these, 11,275 have gone missing,” Yadav said in a series of tweets.

“Last year, Rs 212 crore were left unspent. This year, the Centre gave another Rs 280 crore. With Rs 492 crore still available, the Punjab Government chose to sit on the funds, forcing farmers to burn the straw,” he added.

Strictly implement rules to combat annual horror

THE toxic mix of low wind speed, dipping temperature and dust, vehicular emissions, smouldering waste, wood or coal as well as stubble burning in farms around the National Capital Region has -as has been seen around the onset of winter in the past many years – once again engulfed the area into a thick blanket of smog. On Tuesday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) crossed the 400 mark to plunge into the ‘severe’ category for some time. Not only is this high level of AQI critical for those suffering from respiratory ailments, but also harmful for healthy people.

Amid criticism for this grave annual feature that has earned Delhi the notoriety of being among the most polluted cities in the world, a couple of remedial steps initiated since 2021 by the authorities to tackle pollution and offset its dangerous consequences serve as some relief to the distressed residents gasping for clean air. One, the daily recording of AQI and its forecast. Two, the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) designed to deal with any oncoming critical stage of pollution. The strict implementation of the two measures is essential for desirable outcomes and calls for coordination between the various agencies involved in dust-fighting operations.

Even as the Commission for Air Quality Management had last week warned of the rising air pollution, Delhi on Wednesday pressed stage three of GRAP meant to combat the crisis of ‘very poor’ category (AQI of 300-400). Pertinently, it entails stopping the dust-emitting construction work and more frequent use of water sprinklers and anti-smog guns to battle the particles suspended in air. The Delhi Government has announced a compensation of Rs 5,000 per month for the construction workers. With the average AQI of the NCR hovering around the ‘severe’ category, the residents would do well for their own health to heed to the Delhi Environment Minister’s advice by resorting to car-pooling or public transport and reporting violations of construction/burning bans; just as they earlier contributed to the city recording the best post-Diwali air quality in seven years even though it was still ‘very poor’ – with a reduction in firecracker use.Every little step counts.

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