New Delhi: The alarming level of air pollution chocked the Delhi NCR region further on Monday as heavy stubble burning in the last 24 hours in national capital’s neighbouring states deteriorated the air quality to hazardous levels. A thick haze due to smog continued to hover over the national capital during the day.

According to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, large number of biomass fire spots were seen in satellite imageries in neighbouring states of Delhi.

The prevailing meteorological conditions are less favourable for dispersal of pollutants for next two days due to moderate ventilation index and low wind speed, it said.

An overall Air Quality Index of 367 was recorded, which falls in the very poor category, according to data of the Central Pollution Control Board.

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”.

Stubble burning leads to increase of PM2.5 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) also known as fine particulate matter.

The PM2.5 was recorded at 217, the highest of this season. Fine particulates can be a matter of more serious health concern than PM10.

The PM10 level (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres) in Delhi stood at 347, according to the CPCB data.

In the NCR region, Ghaziabad recorded severe pollution levels, while Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida and Greater Noida recorded very poor air quality.

Ten areas in Delhi recorded severe pollution level. These areas are Anand Vihar, Ashok Vihar, Bawana, CRRI Mathura Road, DTU, Jahangirpuri, Mundaka, Narela, Punjabi Bagh and Rohini.

The Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said the pollution is likely to increase faster by tomorrow and day after and then slow down.

“Air quality index will be in the upper level of very poor for next three days. The main reason is heavy biomass burning in past 24-hours and local calm winds,” SAFAR said.

According to the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, large number of biomass fire spots were seen in satellite imageries in neighbouring states of Delhi.

SC Prohibits Plying of 15-yr-old Petrol, 10-yr-old Diesel Vehicles in NCR

Terming as “very critical and horrible” the prevailing pollution situation in Delhi-NCR, the Supreme Court prohibited the plying of 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles in the national capital region and made it clear that such vehicles would be impounded if found on roads in Delhi-NCR.

The top court directed that a list of 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles be published on the website of the CPCB and transport departments of the NCR area.

A bench of justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta said a “meaningful advertisement” should be published in a local newspaper for convenience of the owners of these vehicles.

The bench directed the CPCB to immediately create a social media account on which citizens could lodge their complaint about pollution directly “to be acted upon by the task force responsible for implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)”.

It permitted the court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to take pre-emptive steps under the GRAP without strict adherence to pollution stages delineated in the plan.

Earlier, the green panel had also banned the plying of 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles in the Delhi-NCR.

The apex court passed these directions on a note placed before it by advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the air pollution matter, seeking urgent directions to correct the prevailing situation of pollution.

It termed as “eminently reasonable” the three suggestions given by the amicus and made it directions of the court, saying it must be implemented with immediate effect.

During the hearing, the bench referred to media reports that the people should not go on morning walk due to the high levels of pollution.

“Have you gone to the Old Delhi railway station? Poor people there have to work to earn their livelihood. The kind of exertion they undergo is much more than those walking in the morning at Lodhi Gardens,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre.

“They are doing heavy duty manual work. You cannot tell them that you stop your work because it is unsafe for you to work in the morning. This is a very critical situation,” the bench said, adding, “It is horrible”.

AAP, BJP Govts Indulge in Blame Game

The BJP-led government at the Centre and the AAP dispensation indulged in a blame game as Delhi’s air quality continued to remain in the “very poor” category, accusing each other of not taking effective steps to curb the air pollution.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal blamed the Centre, and the governments of Haryana and Punjab Monday for the severe air pollution in Delhi, alleging they were not ready to do anything despite the efforts by the Aam Aadmi Party government.

“The pollution was in control in Delhi throughout the year, but this time (winters) every year, Delhi has to face severe pollution due to the governments at the Centre, BJP-led Haryana and Congress-led Punjab,” he tweeted in Hindi.

“Despite our all-out efforts, they are not ready to do anything. Farmers of these two states are also fed up with their governments,” he said.

Responding to Kejriwal’s charges, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan alleged the AAP dispensation had “failed” to undertake basic measures to curb pollution.

He said Kejriwal “cannot absolve himself of responsibility” by targeting the Centre and the state governments.

Vardhan said the Centre had undertaken a series of measures like the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for Delhi and the national capital region (NCR) and setting up of air purifiers.

Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari asked the party-ruled municipal corporations to step in to tackle the rising air pollution in the city, alleging the AAP government had “failed” to take effective measures.

In a letter to mayors and commissioners of the South, North and the East Delhi Municipal Corporations, which are ruled by the BJP, Tiwari requested them to ban all construction activities in the national capital with immediate effect.

EPCA Agrees to CPCB’s Recommendations, Bans Construction Work Till Nov 10

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) agreed to the recommendations made by the CPCB for the first ten days of November when the air quality is likely to deteriorate further due to festival season and stubble burning in neighbouring states.

The recommendations include closure of all construction activities that generate dust pollution between November 1 and 10.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)-led task force also recommended shutting down coal and biomass based industries, excluding thermal and waste-to-energy plants, from November 4 to 10, intensification of efforts by Transport Department to check polluting vehicles and controlling traffic congestion in Delhi-NCR between November 1 and 10.

The task force also recommended efforts to provide uninterrupted power supply in the NCR to avoid requirement of operating diesel generator (DG) sets.

Also, authorities asked 113 industries to shutdown for not converting to Piped Natural Gas (PNG) in the national capital.

Of the 113 units, 67 are located in Bawana and Narela industrial areas, an official statement said Monday.

In a meeting chaired by Lt Governor Anil Baijal here, officials told the LG that 1,368 show cause notices and 417 closure directions were issued against polluting units by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).

(With PTI inputs)