Delhi Smog Slows down Air Traffic; 37 Flights Diverted, over 500 Delayed

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Photo of Delhi Smog Slows down Air Traffic; 37 Flights Diverted, over 500 Delayed by Samarth Arora

On Sunday, the air pollution levels in Delhi-NCR reached its peak in terms of worst air quality in three years. The situation was declared as a public health emergency and schools were closed down due to the condition of the national capital. The hazardous air quality is now taking a toll on flights and air traffic.

Low visibility due to heavy smog has resulted in disrupted flight operations, with 37 flights diverted to other airports and more than 250 departures and 300 arrivals delayed.

Sources reported that low visibility at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) led to 37 flights being diverted between 9 am and 1 pm to places like Jaipur, Amritsar, Lucknow and Mumbai. Roads were mostly deserted in the city as the people were rightly warned to stay indoors and to avoid venturing outdoors as much as possible.

The government environment monitoring agency SAFAR has extended the warning over the next couple of days. Unexpected light showers overnight on Saturday had escalated the pollution, which is likely the result of the burning of seasonal crop stubble by farmers in the surrounding states. SAFAR asserts that satellite pictures show more than 3,000 incidents of stubble burning last week in neighbouring states, which amounts to about 44% of Delhi's total pollution.

Doctors have also reported a spike in patients with respiratory issues owing to Delhi turning into a gas chamber. They added that the pollution levels have hit the 'severe +' category.

The Delhi government has issued several statements on the ongoing issue and has emphasized on steps being taken to control the situation. Starting today, the odd-even scheme limits the number of private cars that will be on roads for the next 10 days. However, weather forecasting agencies claim that temporary restrictions on private vehicles will have a negligible impact on one of the most hazardous situations that Delhi has ever faced.

Chief Ministers from Delhi and the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana are urging the federal government to do more to combat the pollution crisis. Today, the Supreme Court is expected to hear a petition on ways to push state governments to act sternly against farmers and curb stubble-burning.

Reports from Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency suggest that wind speed is picking up and it could take 24 to 48 hours before the pollution level reduces to around 500. Anything above 400 on the air quality index (AQI) poses a risk for people with respiratory illness and the coming days look blurry for Delhi, quite literally.

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