New Delhi: The air quality in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR), which has remained in the ‘very poor’ and  category since Diwali, dropped further on Friday. According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research, the overall air quality index was docked at 500 in Delhi which falls in the ‘severe’ category.

Officials have stated that the burning of stubble by the farmers in Punjab and Haryana is the reason behind the deteriorated situation in the Capital city. A data from Punjab and Central Pollution Control Boards, the state has recorded a whopping increase of 7,842 fires -from 12,027 on October 27 to 19,869 on October 30.

Speaking to a news agency, environmental experts say that stubble burning is the biggest reason for the haze that has enveloped Delhi-NCR since the last few days. An expert from TERI, Sumit Sharma said 30-60 per cent of fog cover and spike in air pollution in Delhi-NCR in the current season is due to stubble burning.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government had also released the latest NASA images which showed a drastic increase in the stubble burning post-Diwali. With ‘folded hands’, Chief Minister Kejriwal had urged Punjab and Haryana to take concrete steps against stubble burning to prevent the national capital from turning into a “gas chamber”.

“I appeal to the Punjab and Haryana governments with folded hands on behalf of the residents of Delhi to take strong steps and prevent Delhi from becoming a gas chamber. At our level, we are making all possible efforts and will continue to do so,” he tweeted in Hindi a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government had directed all schools to not organise outdoor activities for students as a precautionary measure. Furthermore, it may consider shutting the schools if the situation worsens. “Outdoor activities and exposure in the polluted atmosphere could have long term detrimental effects on the health of children. All heads of government, as well as private schools, are directed to ensure no outdoor activities are organised in schools till severe pollution condition persists,” the Directorate of Education (DoE) said in a letter to schools.

However, from today onward, the Delhi government will also start distributing masks among school students. “Fifty lakh N95 masks would be given to students in both government and private schools in Delhi. A kit of a mask having two pieces of N95, one of the good quality masks for tackling smog, will be given to students. Masks will be distributed for one week,” the Chief Minister had announced.