Pollution levels in the national capital and adjoining areas once again spiked on Sunday morning with the city's overall Air Quality Index (AQI) standing at 625 at 10 AM, a day after Delhi-NCR recorded a marginal decline following a slight increase in the wind speed.
Notably, for the first time in this season, the Air Quality Index (AQI) docked as high at 10 in the morning despite light drizzles in the early hours.
32 flights were diverted from Delhi airport on Sunday morning due to low visibility caused by pollution, airport officials said. "Total 32 flights have been diverted from Delhi airport on Sunday morning due to bad weather," they said.
An Air India spokesperson said, "Due to bad weather, flight operations affected since morning 9 am in T3 airport (Delhi). Twelve flights are diverted to Jaipur, Amritsar and Lucknow."
When asked if it can be said that "bad weather" is actually the pollution, the spokesperson replied in affirmative.
The levels of PM2.5 -- the tiny particulate matter of less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can enter the lungs and even the bloodstream, were 758 micrograms per cubic meter at 8:30 am; the PM10 level was at 890.
Apart from the capital, Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad and Noida are also reeling under the wave of severe air pollution. In both places, the AQI has crossed the mark of 600.
People residing in these areas complained of eye irritation and suffocation due to deteriorating air quality.
"We are athletes and have most of the events in the winter seasons. This thick smog is affecting our health making it difficult to breathe in the poisonous air. The government must do something about it," Prashant Shukla, a local from Ghaziabad, told ANI.
"Due to dense fog and poor visibility in Delhi, arrivals/departures from Delhi delayed with consequential impact across the network," Air Vistara tweeted.
On Saturday, weather experts said there was a significant improvement in wind speed and it will increase gradually. Winds gusting up to 20-25 kilometres per hour are likely in the region from Sunday to Tuesday, they said.
Scattered rainfall in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi is likely on November 7 and 8 under the influence of Cyclone Maha and a fresh western disturbance, the weather office said.
This rainfall, however light, will be significant in terms of reducing the effect of stubble burning, and will wash away pollutants, they said.
On Friday, the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority declared the public health emergency, following which the Delhi government decided to shut all schools.
The EPCA also banned construction activities in Delhi-NCR till November 5.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal termed Delhi a "gas chamber" and blamed stubble burning in neighbouring Haryana and nearby Punjab for the apocalyptic haze shrouding the city.
The share of stubble burning in Delhi's pollution stood at 46 per cent on Friday, the highest so far, according to the Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor, SAFAR.
The AQI entered the 'severe plus' or 'emergency' category late Thursday night in Delhi, the first time since January this year.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor' and 401-500 'severe'. Above 500 falls in the 'severe plus' category.