With continuing farm fire in neighbouring states, air quality in Delhi may hit ’emergency’

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ir pollution in the national capital lingered between ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ levels on Saturday and threatened to enter the ‘emergency’ category as officials in Punjab reported a spike in farm fires after Diwali.

According to scientists, the air might worsen over the next two days since the wind is bringing in particulates from the northwest, where farm fires have been raging.

“The concentration of PM 2.5 – the more harmful of the particulates – would remain in the severe or severe+ (emergency) category till November 11,” said an official.

An official at Punjab’s pollution control board said that since Wednesday, at least 10,000 instances of farm fires were recorded — nearly a fourth of the roughly 40,700 instances seen this year.

A total of 48,000 fire incidents were reported in Punjab last year and the number was 78,000 in 2016. “At this rate, the total count might cross last year’s numbers,” said the official.

‘Emergency’ is the worst of five grades classifying pollution, followed by ‘severe’ and ‘very poor’ in decreasing intensity.

On Saturday, authorities extended the ban on construction work and entry of heavy vehicles into Delhi in order to help control local emissions. Industries running on coal have also been asked to stop operations. “Several emergency measures have been rolled out while new measures were added over the past ten days. These might have worked,” Sunita Narain, member of the Supreme Court-appointed pollution control authority Epca, told HT.