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04 Dec 2020 | 10:30 AM UTC

India: Severe air pollution continues in National Capital Region as of December 4 /update 3

Severe air pollution continues in National Capital Region, India, as of Dec. 4. Transport, commercial disruptions possible.



Severe air pollution continues to impact India's National Capital Region (NCR). Hazardous air quality may prompt transportation and commercial disruptions. As of late Dec. 4, the government's System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) recorded "severe" air pollution levels, the highest-ranking on a six-point scale, at many reading stations in the greater Delhi area. Regional air quality conditions may fluctuate due to various wind patterns and intermittent rains, though extended periods of severe pollution are likely through at least mid-December.

Pollution may cause transportation and commercial disruptions. Officials in the NCR have banned the usage of diesel generators for power supply and advised residents to switch off vehicle engines when stopping at traffic signals. Additional controls may be imposed in the coming days and possibly weeks. When pollution worsens, authorities in the NCR may restrict private vehicular movement, with only even-numbered four-wheeled vehicles allowed on roads for limited hours on even dates and vice versa. Exemptions are usually given for two-wheel vehicles, transport vehicles, and those carrying children, women, and emergency personnel. Significant shipping disruptions are unlikely, though authorities could impose heavy vehicle restrictions at a later date. Low visibility could prompt regional road and rail travel delays. Reduced visibility may also prompt flight disruptions at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL). Commercial disruptions are possible, as workers and consumers may avoid nonessential outdoor exposure; authorities may also declare holidays.


Conditions are classified as severe when the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) air pollution (airborne particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or smaller - small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs) surpasses 250 micrograms per cubic meter.


Drive cautiously in areas experiencing severe air pollution and allow extra time to reach destinations due to possible low visibility and traffic congestion. Plan for possible delivery delays; confirm road conditions before routing shipments through affected areas. Confirm flights; do not check out of hotels before verifying onward travel.

Individuals with preexisting pulmonary problems should carry adequate medication and consult with a physician before traveling to the area. Stay indoors in well-ventilated areas whenever possible, and seek medical attention if respiratory symptoms worsen. Eye irritation is possible; flush irritated eyes with copious amounts of water. Consider using a facemask if prolonged outdoor activity is necessary; only purchase pollution face masks from established retailers.


Delhi Regional Meteorological Department
System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR)
India Meteorological Department
Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)

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