NEW DELHI, Nov 20 (Reuters) – The Indian capital, Delhi, reopened schools and some construction sites on Monday amid signs of easing air pollution, although it is still classified as hazardous, while toxic foam has polluted parts of the Yamuna River that flows through the city. .
The world’s most polluted capital resumed its annual battle against pollution this month, despite government pledges to improve the situation. Swiss group IQAir said Monday’s air quality index (AQI) of 336 fell from Thursday’s level of 509, but was still “dangerous.”
Children wore masks on their way to school, after a nearly two-week closure to protect them from pollution, while Hindu worshipers celebrating a festival walked in the smog-filled morning to swim in the river, undeterred by the white foam, which authorities described as toxic.
A former advisor to the Delhi government said the foam comes from sludge and untreated waste, adding that the city water board was spraying a food-grade chemical to control it.
“Foam is not inherently lethal,” said former official Ankit Srivastava, an environmental engineer. “You won’t die by eating it, but you will get sick.”
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai told reporters on Sunday that construction work on public infrastructure projects can resume, despite restrictions on activities that spread dust into the air.
These statements follow the cancellation of emergency measures issued on Saturday, November 5 to prevent deterioration in air quality, including a ban on all construction activities, which were eased after index levels improved.
Delhi’s air quality index is expected to decline over the next two days as wind speed rises, according to the government’s air quality early warning system.
Air pollution in Delhi gets worse in winter, when wind speeds decrease and cold air traps pollutants released by vehicles, industry and farmers who burn agricultural waste in surrounding states to prepare for new agriculture.
Traffic emissions were a major contributor on Monday to 2.5 micrometre-sized particles (PM2.5) suspended in the air, a spot study by experts collaborating with the Delhi government showed.
The study added that vehicles contributed 51% of these particles, which are considered particularly dangerous to humans, along a major road, up from levels of 27% and 32% over the past two days.
PM2.5 levels have remained above 128 micrograms per cubic meter of air since Sunday in the National Capital Region, according to the Federal Pollution Control Board. Levels have fallen from a high of 300 on November 5, but are well above the 24-hour average safe limit of 15 set by the World Health Organization.
(Reporting by Kanjik Ghosh in Mumbai and Shivam Patel in New Delhi; Preparing by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Clarence Fernandes and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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