In the run up to the India-Bangladesh first T20 international match in New Delhi on November 3, the air pollution level in the Indian capital shot up on Sunday and is expected to enter the "severe" category by night due to firecracker emissions on the occasion of Diwali, unfavourable weather and a significant spike in stubble burning, according to government agencies.
The prevailing air pollution has become a cause for concern in the run up to the day-and-night India-Bangladesh encounter on November 3.
In December 2017, the Sri Lankan cricket team was left gasping for breath during a Test match at the Kotla, forcing most of their players to wear protective masks even as some fell ill.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) officials hope that the city's poor air quality doesn't snowball into an issue.
A thin layer of toxic haze hung over Delhi this morning and the overall air quality index stood at 313 at 9 am local time, which continued its upward trend and was recorded at 341 at 2.30 pm.
On Saturday, Delhi's overall air quality (302) was in the lower end of the "very poor" category.
The levels of tiny particulate matter of diameter 10 or less than 10 microns that can enter deep into the lungs reached as high as 515 micrograms per cubic metre in Anand Vihar in east Delhi, according to the Delhi government's air quality monitors.
In Wazirpur and Bawana, PM 2.5 levels crossed the 400 mark.
Twenty-nine of the 37 air quality monitoring stations in the capital recorded their AQI in "very poor" category or beyond.
After last year's Diwali, Delhi's AQI had crossed the 600-mark, which is 12 times the safe limit.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered "good", 51-100 "satisfactory", 101-200 "moderate", 201-300 "poor", 301-400 "very poor", and 401-500 "severe". Above 500 is "severe-plus emergency" category.
The period between October 15 and November 15 is considered critical for Delhi-NCR's air quality due to stubble burning in neighbouring states, firecracker emissions on Diwali and weather patterns across the region trapping pollutants in the atmosphere.
The weather department said, primarily, the westerly winds, which carry smoke from stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab to Delhi-NCR, were blowing in the region.
With Delhi's air quality plummeting to dangerous levels around Diwali every year, the Supreme Court in 2018 banned polluting firecrackers and ordered that only green firecrackers, which is said to cause 30 per cent less pollution, can be manufactured and sold.
Apprehending a dip in air quality, the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority on Friday banned construction activities at night in Delhi-NCR from Saturday to Wednesday.
It also directed closure of coal-based industries, barring power plants, in Faridabad, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Sonepat and Bahadurgarh during the period.
On EPCA's direction, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) have also ordered the closure of industries, which have not yet shifted to piped natural gas, from Saturday-Wednesday.
A PMO-led panel has directed implementing agencies and the NCR states to intensify anti-pollution measures up to mid-November so that there is immediate impact on air quality.
The Indian government has also asked Haryana and Punjab to stop stubble burning completely for the next "critical" days. Ends