India's capital battered by dust storms as it awaits the rain

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While the AQI of R.K. Puram saw a drastic jump from 660 to 999, other places like Mandir Marg (770), Dwarka (347), DITE Okhla (801), Punjabi Bagh (646) and ITO (816) saw the air quality plummet to hazardous levels.

The quality of air in India's Delhi and surrounding areas has worsened during the past 24 hours. People have been advised to stay at home as the dusty conditions are likely to continue for the next few days.

The air quality index, which measures the concentration of poisonous particulate matter in the air, hit the "severe" level of 445, on a scale where the maximum reading is 500 and where anything above 100 is considered unhealthy by the Central Pollution Control Board, its website showed.

There was a dip in the air quality level on Tuesday due to dust storms in western India, particularly Rajasthan, which increased coarser particles in the air, the CPCB had said.

Pollution linked to boundary conditions-burning of fossil fuels, seasonal fires, dust events and other natural sources-is now the top contributing factor to poor air quality, according to UrbanEmissions.info, a pollution research and analysis site. Studies in Delhi by several agencies have looked for a wide variety of elements and toxic compounds in dust that show the impact of industrial activities like metal processing or vehicular pollution.

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The Environment Ministry has said the dusty conditions are likely to prevail for the next three days.

Meanwhile, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has convened an urgent meeting of the Task Force regarding the implementation of Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) today and issued necessary directions to contain local dust sources. However, the current increase in levels of pollution is mainly due to a drastic increase in coarse particles in the air which has caused a spike in PM10 level but PM2.5 is not as high as that of previous year.

Yesterday, the PM2.5 level in Delhi-NCR was at 268 and Delhi at 277.

"There could be discomfort or breathing difficulties due to the pollution", Sudhakar said.

"Held an emergency meeting in view of severe dust pollution in Delhi with Hussain and officials".

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