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.
Faced with rising air pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), the Centre has introduced a new law through an ordinance that puts in place a powerful oversight body and provides for up to five years of jail term and Rs one crore fine for violators with immediate effect.
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.
The wind direction is expected to change again from easterly to north-westerly on November 27, which could result in a marginal deterioration in the air quality, as per IMD forecast.
Delhi's air quality is expected to improve because the stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana has been reducing now.
Here’s the AQI of major Indian cities as of 8 am on November 17:
> New Delhi 299 (PM2.5 170)
> Ahmedabad 135 (PM2.5 69)
> Bengaluru 37 (PM2.5 16)
> Mumbai 175 (PM2.5 119)
> Pune 209 (PM2.5 39)
> Chennai 46 (PM2.5 27)
> Hyderabad 140 (PM2.5 71)
> Kolkata 258 (PM2.5 108)
(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.