The Delhi-NCR region was hit by hailstorm and heavy rain Thursday evening, raising hopes among Delhiites for better air quality. The rain showers are also expected to add to the winter chill. Earlier in the day, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital remained in the ‘severe’ category with major pollutants PM 10 at 372 and PM 2.5 at 257, according to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research(SAFAR).
The air quality had dipped to the ‘severe’ category on Wednesday after an extended spell of low temperatures and stagnant winds impeded the dispersal of pollutants. Rains were also expected in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and a few other north Indian states. Meanwhile, Uttarakhand on Thursday recorded the season’s heaviest snowfall as an intense cold wave gripped the hill-state, leading to the closure of schools in several districts, the Met office said. Cold wave conditions also intensified following rain, snowfall in many parts of Himachal Pradesh and the maximum temperatures have dropped by 7-8 degrees Celsius. In J&K, the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was closed on Thursday evening following moderate snowfall in and around Jawahar Tunnel – the gateway to Kashmir valley, the traffic department said.
As pollution levels in north India rose alarmingly over the last two days, environmental advocacy organizations requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to declare a national health emergency, PTI reported. Pollution levels in the region increased over the last two-three days as falling temperatures, high humidity and low wind speed allowed rapid accumulation of pollutants from local sources.