New Delhi: On Friday, a Supreme Court mandated panel declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region and banned construction activity till November 5.
In a letter to chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority chairperson Bhure Lal said that the air quality in Delhi-NCR deteriorated further on Thursday night and is currently at the severe plus level. He also said that bursting of crackers during the winter season has also been banned.
"We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution will have adverse health impact on all, particularly our children," he said in the letter.
The blanket of haze over Delhi thickened on Friday morning with the national capital's pollution levels increasing overnight. According to official data, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) on Friday was 582 at 12.30 am for Delhi-NCR. It had shot up to 504 at 3.30 am. An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor' and 401-500 'severe'. Above 500 falls in the 'severe-plus emergency' category.
Earlier, the EPCA had banned construction activities only for the period between 6 pm and 10 am till November 2. Now, no construction can take place even in daytime. EPCA directed that all coal and other fuel-based industries, which have not shifted to natural gas or agro-residue, will remain shut in Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida, Bahadurgarh, Bhiwadi, Greater Noida, Sonepat, Panipat till the morning of November 5. In Delhi, industries, which have not yet shifted to piped natural gas, will not operate during the period, it said. "Cracker burning is completely banned for the entire winter period. We note that there are festivals coming and given the experience of Diwali, when in spite of all efforts, cracker burning was extremely high and led to accumulation of toxins in the air, this measure is needed," Bhure Lal said.
He also said that it is imperative that implementing agencies take urgent steps to stop local sources of pollution, as this will only add to the already polluted air. "This requires stringent vigilance and punitive action against all cases of local pollution, from plastic and garbage burning to dust pollution. I am also constrained to say that in spite of all our efforts, there are still many instances of local pollution and therefore, enforcement needs to be stepped up further," he said.