Delhi chokes over hazardous air quality post Diwali

Thursday morning saw Delhi engulfed in haze after the residents did not give up on fire crackers on Diwali. This happened despite the Supreme Court’s order on ban of firecrackers, and further increased the levels of harmful particulates to emergency levels.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorder to be 350, which is an indicator of very poor air pollution levels. Also, the level of PM2.5 – the even more harmful and ultra-fine particles – increased up to emergency levels.

“The level of PM2.5, which are ultra-fine particles emitted mostly by combustions, have shot up at least 6.3 times above the safe standards. At 10 am the level of PM2.5 was 383ug/m3 which is way above the daily permissible limit of 60ug/m3,” a scientist with the Central Pollution Control Board said.

The level of PM10 – the coarser dust particles also were recorded to be in a very poor stage. The level was 385ug/m3 at around 10 am, which is nearly 3.8 times more than the safe level of 100ug/m3.

“This clearly indicates that man-made emissions and not natural dust are responsible. The unfavourable weather conditions such as low wind speed and moisture might have compounded the problem,” D Saha, former head of the board’s air quality laboratory, said.

The Air Quality Index, as reported by news agency ANI was 999 in Anand Vihar, the area around the US embassy in Chanakyapuri recorded it at 459 and that around Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium was 999. All these numbers fall under the hazardous category.

The particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10, were at 500 or severe levels in Lodhi Road area.

The Supreme Court had given a window of two hours on Diwali in Delhi and NCR from 8 pm to 10 pm. Also, the court ordered manufacturing of only “green crackers” with low emission of light, sound and smoke.

Delhi Police officials said “sporadic” breaches of Supreme Court’s order have been witnessed beyond the time frame fixed for bursting crackers.

“In some areas, people have been found burning firecrackers beyond 8pm-10pm time frame. The exact number of violation is yet to be ascertained. But, we will take strict action against them,” an official spoke to news agency PTI on Wednesday.

Urbanemissions, an Indian environment research group, revealed that nearly five million kilograms of fire crackers were burnt on Diwali night in Delhi-NCR once the pollution levels on Thursday were analyzed. This nearly equates 1.50 lakh kilos of PM2.5 being added to the air.

System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR), the government agency predicted that Delhi could encounter severe levels of pollution from November 8 even if the number of crackers this year were half of that burnt in 2017.

The scientists had also forecast that pollution would continue to disrupt the lives of Delhi NCR residents till November 10, as the weather conditions would be harsh. They revealed that Delhi would face the after effects of stubble burning November 8 onwards, because the weather conditions would take a turn for worse.

The 16 million strong city, had the worst ever air quality this season recorded on Monday, when the pollution levels were 8 times higher than the permissible limit.

The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) on Tuesday was recorded at 320, which comes under the ‘very poor’ category, as per the data by the CPCB. There was a slight improvement in the level as compared to Monday’s AQI of 434 that fell under the ‘severe’ category.

The shocking revelation that doctors have made is that the impact of pollution is equal to smoking 15-20 cigarettes per day.

In 2016, Delhi saw the worst amount of smog in the last 17 years during the post-Diwali period. A ban on sale of crackers was imposed in 2017 but Delhi still saw the sale of crackers and very poor air quality after Diwali.


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