With the onset of winter, the quality of air has started deteriorating across India. Over the last few weeks, the Air Quality Index (AQI) has dipped dangerously low in the northern regions of the country, especially in New Delhi.
The Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) was enforced in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) on October 15 to help reduce air pollution. Meanwhile, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai has appealed to each citizen of Delhi to encourage five people to participate in the city government's anti-vehicular pollution campaign - 'Red light on, Gaadi off', saying switching vehicles off while waiting at traffic signals can reduce vehicular pollution by 15-20 percent.
While the AQI hovering in the ‘hazardous’ levels (especially in the later stages of winter) has been a concern for many years, medical experts have warned that air pollution can aggravate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A study conducted in the UK found that about 15 percent of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 may be linked to long-term exposure to air pollution. Researchers found that in Europe the proportion of COVID-19 deaths linked to air pollution was about 19 percent, in North America, it was 17 percent, and in East Asia about 27 percent.
Meanwhile, the central government's Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi said the national capital's air quality was likely to remain very poor till October 31.
Here’s the AQI of major Indian cities as of 9 am on October 29:
> New Delhi 468 (PM2.5 282)
> Ahmedabad 210 (PM2.5 93)
> Bengaluru 117 (PM2.5 48)
> Mumbai 366 (PM2.5 206)
> Pune 50 (PM2.5 6)
> Chennai 27 (PM2.5 14)
> Hyderabad 151 (PM2.5 91)
> Kolkata 170 (PM2.5 81)
Source: AQI India
PM2.5 is the mixture of solid particulate matter and liquid droplets found in the air. Breathing such air can affect the heart and cause chronic cardiovascular problems.
AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51–100 is ‘satisfactory’, 101–200 is ‘moderately polluted’, 201–300 is ‘poor’, 301–400 is ‘very poor’ and 401–500 is considered ‘severe’. The categorisation may vary depending on the monitoring agency.