New Delhi: The air quality in the national capital has deteriorated significantly and experts have identified the burning of agricultural wastes in neighbouring states as one of the major contributors to a visible haze over the city.
As per official data, the air quality in the city has slipped into the category of "poor" following rapid increase of PM2.5 (respirable particles) level.
The Air Quality Index value, calculated on the basis of PM 2.5 level, touched a high of 293 today which implies that the air quality is quite unhealthy.
Rise in the pollution levels have also caused breathing ailments in the city, as per health experts.
"Burning of agricultural waste is one of the primary contributors to high-levels of pollution. Even in the urban areas, waste is being burnt by sweepers. Burning of leaves and waste is banned under the Environment Act that amounts to seven years of imprisonment and Rs 1 lakh fine," said Dr Narender Kumar, a Delhi-based environmentalist.
System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), an air quality monitor in the capital, too has linked the peaking of PM 2.5 to burning of agriculture waste in the bordering states of Punjab and Haryana.
"The winds blowing towards Delhi from the northwest are passing by the area where a lot of agricultural waste is being produced. If the capital gets colder in the coming days, the smog situation will intensify," a SAFAR report said.
The pollution levels in the capital have also triggered various lung diseases in the city.
"There has been a sudden increase in the number of asthma patients in the past few weeks. Though we expect such cases only in mid-December when the cold weather intensifies in the city, many people have visited our clinic complaining breathing troubles, especially children, babies and senior citizens. Cases of heart and lung infections have also shot up," said Dr V K Saxena who runs a clinic at Rohini, North-west Delhi.
An official of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) said both particulate and non-particulate matters have gone up in the air in the last few days due to variety of reasons.
"While toxic gases like carbon monoxide, methane, hydrocarbon and ozone gases contribute to the non-particulate matters; combustion and burning of fossil fuels are the reasons behind rise in particulate matters. Both the factors have contributed to the rise in pollution levels of the city," he said.
"The condensation of water vapours in the morning leads to fog. When the fog intensifies, smog situation prevails that in turn affects the visibility and leads to health ailments," he explained.