Gurgaon/Noida: On a murky air day that saw 'air'pocalypse and photos of buildings shrouded in smog swirl on social media, the NCR cities recorded their worst air quality of the season even as low wind speed and farm fires are likely to exacerbate pollution levels over the next few days.
The average AQI on Thursday was the worst in Greater Noida (402), moving into the 'severe' category.At its Knowledge Park III monitoring station, air quality dipped to 428.
Noida was marginally lower at 351 (very poor) but AQI in parts of the city plummeted to the 'severe' category - the Sector 62 station clocked an average AQI of 410. Ghaziabad (286) and Gurgaon (297) were in the 'poor' category.
In Gurgaon, Gwalpahari station, located 5km from the protected Aravali hill range, recorded the worst AQI of 320 (very poor). The average AQI at the three other stations was 'poor' - Vikas Sadan (295), Teri Gram (293) and Sector 51 (251). The city's overall AQI the day before was 226, also 'poor'.

"A smog blanket has engulfed the city and affected visibility, but the AQI is still in the poor category. There seems to be a disconnect," Sachin Panwar, an independent expert on air, said.
Further up in Haryana, the AQI was severe in Faridabad's Sector 11 (414), Fatehabad's Huda (423), Hisar urban estate-II (414) and Jind (413).

"Smog, low wind speed and south-east wind direction don't allow for dispersion of pollutants in the air, allowing particulate matter to stay afloat. These toxic compounds can cause severe health hazards. The situation is expected to deteriorate further as the minimum temperature will dip in the coming days," Shubhansh Tiwari, a research associate at the Centre for Science and Environment, said.

Alarmed by the spike in air pollution levels, the Centre's pollution control panel issued directions to halt non-essential construction work, stone crushing and mining in Delhi-NCR. This action comes as part of Stage III of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) - the Centre's air pollution control plan which is implemented in the region during the winter season.
Under GRAP stage III, the NCR administration is to enforce a strict ban on construction and demolition activities except for some exceptions. It also directs a ban on the plying of BS III petrol and BS IV diesel LMVs (4-wheelers) in Delhi and in the districts of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar.

The ban on BS III and BS IV vehicles is likely to affect nearly 3.75 lakh vehicles in Noida and Ghaziabad.
Meanwhile, doctors said during periods of persistently poor air quality, it is crucial for both senior citizens and children to take precautions to safeguard their health. Dr Rajesh Chawla, a senior consultant (pulmonology and critical care) at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, said prolonged exposure to poor air quality has exacerbated respiratory ailment, prompting individuals with pre-existing conditions to seek medical intervention.

"The deteriorating AQI has led to an influx of patients in the outpatient departments (OPDs) with various respiratory ailments. People suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease and persistent post-viral cough, which do not respond to standard treatments, are seeking medical attention," he said.

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