Rain clears smog in Delhi but air quality remains 'very poor'

A cyclist making his way in the smog in New Delhi last Thursday. Air quality was very poor despite a respite yesterday.
A cyclist making his way in the smog in New Delhi last Thursday. Air quality was very poor despite a respite yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • A rainy spell early yesterday brought better air to residents of New Delhi, giving them a brief respite from thick grey smog that has shrouded the Indian capital for the last two months, although air quality continued to be "very poor".

A measure of tiny, hazardous breathable particles known as PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, reached an average of 182 by noon, the Central Pollution Control Board said, its lowest since Nov 4.

But pollution was still five times more than a United States government-recommended level of 35 to stand at "unhealthy" levels, according to the US embassy.

"Change in weather conditions by rain or higher wind speed helps dissipate peak pollution, but we continue to need strong emergency actions such as shutting power plants," said Ms Anumita Roychowdhury of the Centre for Science and Environment think-tank.

The federal government air quality index rated Delhi's air quality "very poor" yesterday and had a similar forecast for today, urging people with respiratory and cardiac problems to avoid polluted areas and limit outdoor movement.

A sharp drop in temperatures and wind speed over the last two weeks, combined with vehicle and industrial emissions, dust from building sites and smoke from rubbish burning, has stoked pollution over much of north India.

Levels of PM 2.5 hit their highest last year at 450 on Dec 23. Despite the pollution, there is little sign that Delhi's 20 million residents are taking steps to protect themselves. Activists say the apparent lack of concern gives politicians the cover they need for not tackling the issue adequately.

 

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2019, with the headline 'Rain clears smog in Delhi but air quality remains 'very poor''. Print Edition | Subscribe