New Delhi: The air quality in the national capital remained in the 'severe' category with toxic smog covering the city for the fifth consecutive day Friday since Diwali celebrations.
According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the national capital is facing the worst smog in 17 years even as it asked the Delhi government to issue health alerts and convey that children should stay indoors as there is a state of health emergency due to peaking air pollution.
As per reports, peak level of respirable pollutants PM2.5 and PM10 also violated the safe limits by over 15 times at places like RK Puram. The prescribed standard of PM2.5 is 60 micrograms per cubic metre, but it touched 955 in real-time during early morning hours on Thursday.
All the monitoring stations of SAFAR had air quality in the 'severe' category.
The Delhi government's inter-ministerial task force headed by PWD Minister Satyendar Jain to combat the pollution menace also met and identified crop burning in Punjab and Haryana as one of the major factors behind the spiralling level of pollutants.
Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain wrote to his Union counterpart Anil Madhav Dave requesting strict action against crop burning in the neighbouring states.
As visibility remained poor and the city choked due to a haze, the CSE asked the Delhi government to roll out stringent plans for controlling winter pollution from all sources of pollutants as well as issue daily health advisory to the people.
"This demands emergency response to protect the vulnerable- those who are suffering from respiratory and heart diseases and children.
"The government should aggressively inform all and advise them to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercises. At the same time, it should roll out stringent winter pollution control for all sources along with emergency action," said Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE's air pollution and sustainable mobility teams.
CSE said that according to the Indian Meteorological Department, this is the worst smog with very poor visibility in 17 years and the Indira Gandhi International Airport recorded the worst levels of smog in 17 years on November 2, with visibility as low as 300-400 metres.
It said the analysis of data from the Delhi Pollution
Control Committee shows that the levels of PM2.5 have increased by 62.7 per cent on November 2 as compared to that on Diwali (October 30) and the levels were 9.4 times the standard on November 2.
According to air quality monitoring network SAFAR, PM2.5 levels are in severe category and are expected to remain in this category for more than three days, it said.
"Delhi needs strong action to protect people from such deadly exposure. Immediately step up action and put out hard health evidences and heath alerts in the public domain to sensitise people about the harmful effects of smog and push action.
"Delhi needs an effective winter pollution mitigation plan that can make a difference. Without strong action smog is only expected to get worse this winter at serious public health costs," Roychowdhury said.
In the wake of excessive pollution, a few schools in the national capital region have declared holiday on Friday, while some others have suspended morning assembly and asked students to wear masks.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government on Thursday drew flak from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for claiming that dengue cases have declined due to stoppage of mosquito breeding caused by rising air pollution.
(With PTI inputs)