It was not a very happy first day of the New Year as air pollution levels in Delhi showed a sharp rise. The first day of the New Year began with a spike in pollution levels across Delhi which is ‘severe’ again. As per a statistical handbook released by the Delhi Government, the deaths due to respiratory diseases have gone from 6,502 in 2015 to 9,149 in 2016 which is a scary 40% increase. The level of lethal particulate matter hovered around the danger mark and if it rises any further, and stays the same for four more days, emergency pollution control measures like odd even road rationing scheme and a ban on the construction activities will have to be immediately brought into action.
The average particulate matter or PM 2.5 was recorded at 292 micrograms per cubic metre which is a ‘very poor’ category. The levels of PM10 stood at 444 micrograms per cubic meter which is ‘severe’ as per the Central Pollution Control Board guidelines. The Graded Response Action Plan laid out by a Supreme Court monitored panel has recommended a strict action when PM 2.5 and PM 10 level turns 300 and 500 and remains the same for 48 hours and the weather conditions indicate that it well be there for atleast two more days. Currently, Delhi has three plans to control pollution and one is being followed. There is no clarity on what is being done on the other two, one is by the National Green Tribunal and one is by the Prime Minister’s pollution task force.
The spike in pollution comes after weeks after the initial surge in November which was termed as a ‘public health crisis’ by doctors. The Delhi Government was pulled up by the courts for inaction and subsequently, it announced a series of measures which included the odd-even scheme, a ban on construction activities and commercial trucks. There was also a fourfold rise in car parking charges to force people to use public transport. This will have a long lasting impact on the health of children and elderly.
PM 10 is linked to various respiratory illnesses and a PM 2.5 is related to heart conditions. The deaths cannot be directly linked to pollution but pollution is a health hazard and can be linked to exacerbation of respiratory diseases and asthma.