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Air pollution: Centre orders ban on non-essential construction work in Delhi-NCR

Air pollution: Centre orders ban on non-essential construction work in Delhi-NCR
New Delhi, The Centre's pollution control panel issued directions on Thursday to halt non-essential construction work, stone crushing and mining in Delhi-NCR as the air quality in the capital entered the 'severe' category. This action is part of Stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) -- the Centre's air pollution control plan implemented in the region during the winter season.

Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 402 at 5 pm.

At a meeting to review the air quality situation in Delhi-NCR, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), a statutory body responsible for developing strategies to combat pollution in the region, said that pollution levels are only "expected to increase further" due to highly unfavourable meteorological and climatic conditions.

GRAP categorises actions into four stages: Stage I - 'Poor' (AQI 201-300); Stage II - 'Very Poor' (AQI 301-400); Stage III - 'Severe' (AQI 401-450); and Stage IV - 'Severe Plus' (AQI>450).

Stage III of GRAP involves a complete halt on construction and demolition work, except for essential government projects, mining and stone crushing.

Construction work related to national security or defence, projects of national importance, healthcare, railways, metro rail, airports, interstate bus terminals, highways, roads, flyovers, overbridges, power transmission, pipelines, sanitation and water supply is exempt from the ban.

Under Stage III, restrictions are also imposed on plying of BS III petrol and BS IV diesel four-wheelers in Delhi, Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar.

The CAQM also suggested that Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan may conduct online classes for students up to class 5.

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai has also called a meeting on Friday to discuss implementation of pollution control measures under Stage III of GRAP, officials said.

Health professionals have expressed concerns that air pollution is increasing asthma and lung problems in children and the elderly.

"We are recording a surge in the number of irritative bronchitis infections. It is recommended that people suffering from respiratory issues such as chronic bronchitis and asthma take their medicines regularly and do not go out in the open unless absolutely necessary," said Jugal Kishore, the head of the medicine department at Safdarjung Hospital.

Considering the spike in indoor pollution in Delhi, he advised people to use air purifiers in their homes.

Scientists have warned of a spike in pollution levels in Delhi-NCR over the next two weeks.

Residents in several cities in neighbouring Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh also breathed hazardous air.

These include Hanumangarh (438) and Sri Ganganagar (359) in Rajasthan; Hisar (414), Fatehabad (423), Jind (413), Rohtak (388), Sonepat (374), Kurukshetra (343), Karnal (343), Kaithal (379), Bhiwani (355), Faridabad (368) and Gurugram (297) in Haryana; and Ghaziabad (286), Noida (313) and Greater Noida (402) in Uttar Pradesh.

One of the major reasons behind the accumulation of pollutants in recent days is the lack of rainfall during the post-monsoon season so far.

According to government data, Delhi's air quality in October this year was the worst since 2020 with meteorologists attributing it to the absence of rainfall.

The capital recorded an AQI of 219 in October, compared to 210 in October last year and 173 in October 2021, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

In contrast to October 2022 (129 mm) and October 2021 (123 mm), Delhi experienced only one rainy day (5.4 mm of precipitation) in October 2023.

Unfavourable meteorological conditions, combined with emissions from firecrackers, paddy straw burning and local pollution sources, contribute to hazardous air quality levels in Delhi-NCR during winter.

According to an analysis conducted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the capital experiences peak pollution from November 1 to November 15 when the number of stubble burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana increase.

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