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Ahead of Diwali, Delhi’s air quality already into red zone

“The temperature is starting to dip and the air quality has been fluctuating between poor and very poor in our data” : SAFAR scientist
NEW DELHI: A week ahead of Diwali, air quality in Delhi has already reached as low as such it’s breaching the hazardous “red zone” on Sunday. If this continues for three more days, centre may prompt Beijing authorities to shut factories and curb outdoor activities.

Delhi’s air quality index, separately calculated by CPCB and SAFAR, showed a common reading of 318 on Sunday. An AQI of more than 300 is considered “very poor”. While the city’s air quality falls to even more hazardous levels during the winter, it’s unusual for levels to rise this early in the season.

“The temperature is starting to dip and the air quality has been fluctuating between poor and very poor in our data. Low wind speeds will mean a high reading as pollutants don’t disperse easily and the low temperature will keep the pollution levels like this in the coming week as well,” said a SAFAR scientist.

US embassy’s air quality monitoring stations, located at the relatively clean Chanakyapuri, showed “unhealthy” levels as per their AQI measurements. Delhi was the worst among all cities monitored by CPCB.

“Diwali traffic has been a factor and it won’t improve soon,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of Centre for Science and Environment.

“The onset of winter pollution has begun and as conditions begin to get colder, pollution levels will rise slowly. The weather and cold will mean the particulate matter stay closer to the ground. Leading up to Diwali, the air is expected to stay very poor,” Chowdhury said.

“Already the air is starting to get choked and preventive measures now need to be looked at as the quality will deteriorate further after Diwali,” she added.

Experts said weather conditions, coupled with wind conditions also contributed to a high reading. The wind speed in Chanakyapuri was 0.8ms, meaning the particulate matter could not disperse in the area.