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Pollution at its peak in two cities, but rain offers hope 

Chandigarh: Pollution levels in the cities of Ludhiana and Jalandhar reached the highest level ever this evening as farmers continued to burn paddy stubble, even as late-evening showers in several parts of the state raised hopes of relief from smog.The AIQ (air quality index), recorded at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, was as high as 348. PPCB officials said it would lead to respiratory illness and heart diseases on prolonged exposure. The RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter) level was recorded at 500 microgram per cubicmetre, five times the tolerable limit of 100.Surinder Paul, Director, Met Department, Chandigarh, said smog had entered buildings due to high condensation of particulate matter.“The air pollution level was already high. Moisture incursion, brought by the Western disturbances, led to higher condensation of pollutants, leading to poor visibility,” he told The Tribune.Rama Vij, Principal, Police DAV School, Jalandhar, said the smog entered houses and other buildings around 3.30 pm today, causing severe burning sensation in the eyes and throat.Similar complaints were received from residents of Ludhiana. Amrik Singh, a businessman in Ludhiana, said even the air purifiers installed in his office failed to control the smog that left almost all his employees breathless and coughing.KS Pannu, Chairman, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), admitted that the air pollution level in the two cities was the highest ever. “As many as 872 incidents of stubble-burning were captured today, as compared to 227 yesterday. We are working hard to stop straw-burning but farmer unions oppose us,” he said, adding that the pollutants are expected to dissipate shortly.Pannu said farmers had to pay environment compensation, as ordered by the National Green Tribunal. “We have imposed this fine (Rs 2,500 on marginal farmer, Rs 5,000 on small farmer and Rs 15,000 on large farmer) on 70 lakh farmers, which will be recovered as arrears of land revenue. The fine collected as of now is Rs 4.50 lakh,” he added.

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