The federal anti-pollution body, Commission of Air Quality Management (CAQM), on Thursday ordered imposition of a series of curbs, including ban on private construction and demolition activities, restricting plying of BS-III petrol and BS-IV diesel vehicles, closing all government and private primary schools for the next two days — all steps under stage 3 of the graded response action plan (Grap) — across the National Capital Region as the air quality dropped to severe much earlier than forecast by the Early Warning System (EWS).
Delhi recorded an average air quality of 392 (very poor) in the 4pm Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). But by 6pm, it dropped to 402, forcing CAQM to review curbs already in place under Grap stage 2 and impose stricter restrictions.
“In light of the rising pollution levels, all government and private primary schools in Delhi will remain closed for the next two days,” said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on X (formerly Twitter). Under stage 3, state governments can take a call on discontinuing physical classes in schools for children up to Class 5, and conducting classes in an online mode, if they deem necessary.
Delhi’s air quality has deteriorated progressively since October 28 — only the second “very poor” air day of the season. While the average AQI on October 28 was 304, it rose to 392 by Thursday, the CPCB data shows. Experts have attributed the rising pollution to local factors, even as favourable winds have ensured the contribution of farm fires has stayed low.
“While comprehensively reviewing the overall air quality scenario in the region as well as the forecasts for meteorological conditions and air quality index made available by IMD and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), it was noted that the average AQI of Delhi since 10am – is on a sharp increase and was clocked at 392 at 4pm. Further, the average AQI for Delhi at 5pm stood at 402 which is only expected to increase further owing to the highly unfavourable meteorological and climatic conditions,” CAQM said in a statement, directing the state governments to invoke all measures under Grap stage 3 with immediate effect.
All public infrastructure projects related to rail services, Metro, airport, highways, flyovers, and power transmission are exempt from the curbs on construction.
Unlike last year, states have been asked to mandatorily enforce the ban on four-wheelers. This ban has also been extended to neighbouring NCR towns. Late Thursday evening, the Delhi government notified the restriction, adding that violators will be fined ₹20,000.
A Delhi transport department official said 124 teams will be deployed Friday onwards to enforce Grap curbs.
Sunil Dahiya, analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said with meteorological conditions likely to be unfavourable, it was important to enforce emergency-level measures effectively. “Stage 3 may have been imposed after the AQI touched severe, but what is required now is to enforce it promptly, so the AQI can be controlled and prevented from rising further.”