NEW DELHI – Air pollution levels in the Indian capital surged for the second consecutive day Wednesday, leading local authorities to suspend classes and recommend people to avoid any kind of outdoor activities.
Gufran Beig, program director of System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research, the agency responsible for monitoring air quality in India, told EFE that pollution was at peak levels due to the convergence of three factors: constant industrial and transport emissions, the current weather conditions and the burning of stubble in surrounding regions.
He pointed out that wind has pushed smoke caused by stubble burning in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana into Delhi and on reaching the city has become trapped because of minimal to no wind and high levels of humidity.
According to data from the Central Pollution Control Board at 11 am in north-west Delhi, the concentration of PM10 particles (those under 10 microns) was 1,314 per cubic meter and that of PM2.5 (less than 2.5 microns) reached 796.
According to the World Health Organization the concentration of 200 particles per cubic metre is considered very unhealthy while from 300 onwards the air becomes toxic.
“This situation (of high pollution levels) will stay until tomorrow. The day after tomorrow situation is going to improve slightly,” said Beig, who recommended avoiding any physical activity outside and keeping windows in homes closed.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Tuesday that the Indian capital “has become a gas chamber.” He announced Wednesday his intention to meet with Punjab and Haryana authorities to find a solution to stubble burning.
The New Delhi government Wednesday ordered the closure of all schools in the capital and asked children and elderly people to remain inside.
With a population of about 17 million, New Delhi is one of the most populous cities in the world and one of the most polluted national capitals.
India has 13 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities, according to the World Health Organization.