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Delhi residents are bracing themselves for a challenging weekend as the city’s air quality took a sharp nosedive, plunging into the “poor” category with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 212. Just a day earlier, the air quality was relatively better, falling into the “moderate” category with an AQI of 177. This sudden deterioration in air quality can be attributed to several factors, including a drop in temperatures, decreased wind speed, and an upsurge in farm fires in neighboring states.

This shift into the “poor” category triggered the activation of the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap), which empowers authorities to take necessary measures to combat the worsening air quality. Among the actions now authorized are the suspension of unregistered construction sites, stringent penalties for visibly polluting vehicles, and intensified Pollution Under Control (PUC) inspections.

Notably, this marks the first time in 114 days that Delhi’s air quality has fallen into the “poor” category, a significant departure from the relatively cleaner air experienced since June 14 when the AQI was last recorded at 213.

Experts warn that the situation is likely to deteriorate further as winter approaches, bringing with it an increase in the burning of paddy in agricultural states like Punjab and Haryana. Unfortunately, this annual decline in air quality is not uncommon for Delhi residents. With the withdrawal of the southwest monsoon in October, the city typically witnesses a decline in air quality due to shifting winds towards the northwesterly direction, which are cold and dry, and a drop in temperatures that hampers the dispersion of pollutants.

To address the immediate concerns, the initial phase of the Grap has been set into motion. This includes the closure of construction and demolition sites larger than 500 square meters that are not registered with the government. Additionally, measures such as deploying traffic police at congested intersections, urging power distribution companies to reduce power interruptions, and implementing regular mechanized cleaning and water spraying on Delhi’s roadways are being enforced.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, forecasts indicate that the air quality is expected to remain at a “poor” level throughout the weekend. The Comprehensive Action Plan for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) stated, “The dynamic model and meteorological forecasts by these agencies predict the overall AQI of Delhi will stay in the ‘poor’ category in the next few days, and so it is considered necessary to invoke Stage-I of GRAP with immediate effect in the entire NCR.”

As Delhi navigates this challenging period, residents are encouraged to take precautions, stay informed about air quality updates, and limit outdoor activities to protect their health in the face of deteriorating air quality conditions.

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