Schools shut as Delhi’s air continues to be ‘severe’ for 3rd day, improvement likely from Friday

Delhi’s air quality plunged further in the ‘severe’ zone for the third consecutive day on Thursday. Schools in the national capital are shut in view of the toxic air quality.

Pollution levels in the national capital will continue to deteriorate to nearly ‘emergency’ zone on Thursday, government agencies had earlier warned.

The air quality index (AQI), as calculated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) at 7 am was 463. This was against the overall AQI reading of 456 on Wednesday.

The Delhi government on Wednesday had ordered all government and private schools in the city to remain shut on November 14-15 on account of the deteriorating air quality. Schools in NCR too will remain closed on the same days.

Scientists at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that the weather had a key role to play in increasing pollution levels in the capital over the last two days.

“Low wind speed, diffused sunlight and a low mixing height (the height above the surface throughout which a pollutant can be dispersed; a higher mixing height allows pollutants to escape into the upper layer of the atmosphere and not get trapped near the ground) and northwesterly winds carrying stubble burning residue from Punjab and Haryana combined are likely to push pollution levels further up in the Capital on Thursday as well,” said a senior IMD scientist.

However, there could be some improvement in the air quality on Friday with wind speed likely to pick up from Thursday night, he said.

With the pollution levels in Delhi plunging, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the odd-even road rationing scheme could be extended if needed.

“Odd-even (road rationing scheme) may be extended if necessary. I would like to appeal to the opposition not to oppose odd-even. Pollution has increased drastically. All of Delhi is demanding odd-even and at such a time the opposition parties should support people’s wish,” Kejriwal said on Wednesday.

A decision of whether the odd-even curbs need to be extended will be taken on Friday, the day the drive is supposed to end.

The issue of the city’s pollution levels also came up in the Supreme Court on Wednesday with the apex court directing the Union government to explore the feasibility of a hydrogen-based fuel technology as a permanent solution to the air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region and other parts of north India.

At another hearing on a related issue – a petition challenging the legality of the odd-even curbs – a separate bench asked the Delhi government to present air quality data for the period that fell when the plan was in force as well as comparative data for the period of October 1 to December 31, 2018.

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