India's capital suffers from 'severe' air pollution for third straight day

Thick smog is seen over New Delhi on Nov 7, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI (REUTERS) - Air quality in India's capital New Delhi remained in the "severe" category for a third straight day on Saturday (Nov 7) due to increased stubble fires and vehicle emissions, the country's main environment monitoring agency said.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi state stood at 441 on a scale of 500, indicating "severe" conditions that are hazardous, according to the federal pollution control board's guidance.

Delhi's air pollution typically worsens in October and November due to farmers burning off stubble, and on coal-fired power plants in surrounding states and traffic fumes.

The air quality has worsened due to the unusually high fire emissions, and no quick recovery is expected unless a drastic reduction in fire counts takes place, Safar, India's main environment monitoring agency, said in its daily bulletin.

"Air quality is forecast to stay at the severe to the higher end of very poor category for the next two days," it added.

Covid-19 cases have increased in Delhi due to the ongoing festival season with a record 7,178 cases being reported in the state on Friday, the highest by any state on the day.

On Thursday, the Delhi government decided to ban firecrackers in the national capital and announced steep fines for any violations.

Delhi has installed anti-smog guns at various locations across the state to spray water droplets into the air, to reduce the level of air pollution. There, however, have been calls for more stringent steps to address the pollution issue.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a nationalist group close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, said green crackers made locally by nearly a million employed in the factories should be allowed at Diwali, the biggest festival for Hindus, instead of a blanket ban that will destroy the domestic industry.

"Delhi's air stays in severe category AQI. Time for the govt to look at putting a stop to all construction activities, at least for a week. Also thermal power plants in the immediate periphery of Delhi shd stop operating," Vimlendu Jha, an environmentalist and founder of an activist group, Swechha, wrote on his Twitter page.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.