Delhi's air quality improved slightly with increased wind speed but remained "very poor" on Friday, as the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA came down heavily on authorities over pollution caused by continuing traffic congestion and garbage burning activities.
According to Central Pollution Control Board data, the overall Air Quality Index in the city reached 386, which falls in the very poor category.
Eleven areas in Delhi recorded 'severe' air quality, while it was "very poor" in 25. Environment Pollution Control Authority chairperson Bhure Lal, in a meeting with representatives of Delhi Pollution Control Committee, DSIDC, civic bodies, police and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, asked police to strictly regulate traffic and ensure its smooth passage.
Ghaziabad and Greater Noida recorded 'severe' air quality while Faridabad, Gurgaon and Noida recorded 'very poor' air quality.
The overall PM2.5 level (fine particulate matter in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers) in Delhi was recorded at 237 and the PM10 level was 370, CPCB said. An AQI between 100 and 200 comes under 'moderate' category, 201 and 300 is considered 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', while that between 401 and 500 is 'severe'.
Various road stretches in Sarai Rohilla, Anand Vihar, Zakhira Najafgarh Road, Soan Park, Azadpur Mandi where heavy traffic congestion is resulting in increase in pollution were identified. In Sarai Rohilla, Lal was told by authorities, the absence of a foot-over bridge is resulting in increase in traffic congestion.
"Illegal encroachment further adds to traffic woes in the capital. Guards need to be posted to ensure smooth passage of traffic," Lal said. He also ordered police to ensure traffic regulations are followed strictly, especially in Soan Park in Mundka where, he said, no traffic regulations are followed.
Lal expressed concern over garbage burning in Bawana, Mundka and Narela, which worsens the air quality. He lashed out at the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIDC) Ltd. for not monitoring day-to-day status of garbage accumulation.
He also came down heavily on civic body officials for not lifting garbage regularly in Nangloi. Delhi's air quality has been oscillating between 'very poor' and 'severe' categories for the past three weeks.
Delhi's air quality was in the 'very poor' category on Tuesday, before deteriorating to 'severe' on Wednesday, as it was on Monday. Since Wednesday, the air quality was in the 'severe' category before it slightly improving on Friday morning to the very poor category.
As the air quality has remained "severe" for over 31 hours, the EPCA on Thursday imposed a 24-hour ban on the entry of trucks in the capital from 11pm Friday.
In a letter to chief secretaries of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, Lal directed them to stop the entry of trucks into Delhi, except those carrying essential commodities during the specified period. "The enforcement of this direction requires coordination of all NCR (National Capital Region) states and you are therefore, requested to take steps to ensure that this happens.
"Also, the opening of the Eastern and Western Expressways will make this easier to implement as the trucks that are not destined for Delhi now have convenient alternative to take," Lal said.
Lal urged people to minimise the use of private vehicles and avoid being outside for long duration.
The direction came after the recommendations of the Central Pollution Control Board-led task force. The Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR) said the overall air quality improved to 'very poor' category from 'severe' since morning, due to an appreciable increase in wind speed to 4.1 kmph in spite of other adverse meteorological conditions, including dense fog.
"It is likely to improve further significantly until tonight and then slowly but will continue to remain in 'very poor' range for the next three days. Rapid improvement is expected only if sufficient amount of rainfall occurs whose probability is less," SAFAR said.
"Little showers with calm winds only aggravate the situation rapidly," it said. As per the SAFAR model, fog intensity is likely to decline with increased gusty winds.
"An active western disturbance is very likely to cause fairly widespread moisture intrusion over the northern region, including Delhi, but only after three days when withdrawal is expected," it said.