7-day ban on construction work in Delhi-NCR; parts of UP reel under smog

The air quality in Delhi and several districts of Uttar Pradesh continued to remain "severe" on Tuesday, though visibility improved in Delhi while Lucknow witnessed thick smog.

New Delhi: The air quality in Delhi and several districts of Uttar Pradesh continued to remain "severe" on Tuesday, though visibility improved in Delhi while Lucknow witnessed thick smog.

In a stringent move, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday slapped a ban on all construction activities for a week in the entire Delhi-NCR region.

The Tribunal also slammed the Delhi government and the neighbouring states including Uttar Pradesh for not implementing its orders to curb pollution.

The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting & Research (SAFAR) showing levels of PM (particulate matter) 2.5 and PM 10 breaching the 500-mark at all locations in Delhi.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Air Quality Index (AQI) for Delhi remained severe with the index value 432, while for Lucknow it was 491 and for Kanpur 428.

The maximum level of PM 2.5, which can travel deeply into the respiratory tract down to the lungs, was at the level of 500 micrograms per cubic metre or "severe" at all pollution measuring centres, including Anand Vihar in east Delhi, Punjabi Bagh in the west, R.K. Puram in the south, and Mandir Marg in central Delhi. Dwarka in the west had a marginally lower level of 444.

As per the CPCB data in Uttar Pradesh, the average value of PM 2.5 in Agra was 425, which falls under severe category, while in Varanasi it was 392, which is "very poor". Even in Jaipur, the air quality was "very poor" with index value 396.

Slamming the Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana governments over rising air pollution, NGT Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar sought to know how they implemented NGT's orders on dust pollution, paddy stubble burning and vehicular pollution.

"To bring smog situation in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) under control, the NGT has slapped a ban on construction activities and stone crushing in the region for the next seven days," Counsel for East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) Balendu Shekhar, who was present during the proceedings, told IANS.

The NGT also criticised the Delhi government and the civic bodies in the city for not taking adequate measures to control air pollution.

"When PM 2.5 pollutants touched its maximum value, what steps you (the government and civic bodies) took to control it, except doing meetings? Why no strict action was taken in the first five days?" Kumar sought to know.

NGT directed the civic bodies to send their 50 per cent staff in the field to ensure that no one burns leaves or waste and violates its orders.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the visibility comparatively improved to 700 metres in the national capital on Tuesday while on Monday morning, it was 400 metres and on Sunday, 200 metres.

Delhi Police on Tuesday conducted a special drive to check pollution and challaned 568 vehicles for not having pollution under control (PUC) certificate. Police also checked the entry of vehicles at Delhi borders.

There was no respite from hazardous smog in Lucknow and other districts of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday even as authorities tried to control the grim situation.

The CPCB has since sounded an alert on smog. Smog-like conditions have been reported from Barabanki, Rae Bareli, Sultanpur, Sitapur, Faizabad and Ambedkarnagar districts as well.

The Lucknow Nagar Nigam has announced a fine for burning garbage in the open whereas the Traffic Department has cracked down on polluting vehicles.

Officials and experts say the biggest worry in Lucknow was the fact that for the first time PM1 -- one micron thick pollutant -- was detected in the air. According to environment monitoring unit of the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, it was a dangerous sign.

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