Departure on hold at Delhi airport, 45 flights delayed due to fog

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In view of prevalence of "severe" pollution in the national capital, industrial activities in pollution hotspots of Wazirpur, Mundka, Narela, Bawana, Sahibabad and Faridabad, and construction work across Delhi-NCR was ordered to remain shut till Wednesday.

Officials attributed the sudden deterioration in the air quality to a change in wind direction, which is now blowing from the northwestern region towards Delhi and bringing dust and smoke from stubble burning in neighbouring states with it.

This comes a day after Delhi recorded its most polluted day of the year when the air quality index touched 450, higher than post-Diwali pollution levels.

Several parts of Delhi faced severe air quality such as in Anand Vihar where the PM 2.5 and PM 10 was 424 and 360 respectively and Siri Fort where it was 436 and 424 respectively. At 409 on Tuesday, the air quality index (AQI) relented from the 448 on Monday when officials announced curbs on construction activity for two days as an emergency measure.

According to the state-run SAFAR, a thick blanket of smog engulfed the region on Tuesday morning as the air quality plummeted to the hazardous category with 423 in the morning.

The CPCB has called a meeting of transport department to discuss the deteriorating air quality in the national capital.

The EPCA directed the traffic police to deploy special teams and ensure congestion-free traffic flow particularly in identified high traffic corridors.

The "severe" quality of air was attributed to wind speed and other meteorological factors remaining "highly unfavourable" for dispersion of pollutants.

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Amid "severe" air pollution quality in Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal hinted on Tuesday that the state government might re-introduce the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme if needed.

Environmentalists said that inaction by the authorities was inexcusable and a concerted effort was needed to reduce pollution from vehicles and industry.

While the PM10 level - fine particulate matter in the air with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres - settled at 394, the PM 2.5 level was at 230, both of which fall in the "very poor" category.

A Delhi government official blamed the pollution for lighter-than-usual traffic on already holiday-thinned streets, while a Delhi airport official said some domestic and worldwide flights were delayed for up to two hours due to poor visibility. The index was 4500 sqm/second on Monday, the IITM said.

CPCB chairperson S P S Parihar said the reason the ban is imposed till December 26 is because winds are expected to pick up and the pollution could go down then.

Dahiya also said the government should immediately close down schools and urge people to curtail outdoor activities given the serious health effects of the current pollution levels.

The ventilation index is the speed at which pollutants can get dispersed.