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For a second year, New Delhi's chief minister has likened the city to a "gas chamber".

The air quality index value on Tuesday was recorded at 403, down from 448 on Monday.

The concentration of harmful pollutants PM (Particulate Matter) 2.5 and PM10 in the ambient air was recorded at 230 microgramme per cubic metre (ug/m3), and 394 ug/m3. Although still in the severe category, it has declined to the lower ranges.

According to data from the Central Pollution Control Board, the overall air quality index (AQI) stood at 431.

In the National Capital Region (NCR), Faridabad at 327, Ghaziabad at 398, Greater Noida at 394, Noida at 386 and Gurugram at 310 also fared in the "very poor" zone.

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On Sunday, Delhiites breathed the cleanest air in three weeks, according to CPCB data.

"The ventilation index which allows dispersion (of pollutants) is extremely poor and it is expected that these conditions will prevail for the next two days", Lal said in the letter. The index was 5500 sqm/second Wednesday, the IITM said. "The forecasting model predicts a faster improvement due to faster dispersion".

Ministry of Earth Science agency SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) said Tuesday that meteorological conditions are becoming slowly favourable and severity of air pollution is on a decline. The air quality remained "severe" Monday and Tuesday before moving to the "very poor" category Wednesday morning. However, now with Delhi facing its worst pollution levels ever, a strict rule is required to curb the rising pollution levels.

The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology said biomass burning is also contributing to the spike in PM2.5 concentration. Our government is taking all preventive measures to fight against the pollution.

All stone crushers and hot mix plants generating dust pollution have also been closed.

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"We are preferring to stay at home due to pollution despite Christmas celebrations and a public holiday", said Amit Azad, a financial consultant.

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. He again warned that legal action was being initiated against people violating the regulations.

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.

But satellite images by NASA on Monday showed a large number of farm fires in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Sirsa and other areas of Punjab and Haryana.

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