Delhi failed to learn its lesson yet again. The deadly fog that had enveloped the city a week in advance did not deter Delhiites from bursting crackers and adding a deadly mix of soot, metals and chemicals into the already polluted air.
The fireworks Delhi witnessed this Diwali are unprecedented in terms of increase in air pollution and are likely to cause serious respiratory and cardiac disorders.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Wednesday said the quantum of particulate matter less than 10 microns in size or PM 10 doubled this Diwali compared to last year. SK Tyagi of CPCB said the quantum of nitrogen oxide also went up by 50 to 75 per cent.
Dr Randeep Guleria, head of pulmonary medicine at AIIMS, said, “The increase is significant. These (PM 10) are fine particles. People inhaling such air are likely to suffer from acute bronchitis, asthma and heart troubles.”
PM 10 particles are small enough to be inhaled and accumulate in the respiratory system.
“Thick, black smoke from vehicles, dust particles picked up by the wind, ash and soot are all particulate matter. They could be anything — iron, zinc, lead, nickel. The rise this Diwali is certainly alarming. The elderly, children and those suffering from breathing and cardiac disorders are most vulnerable,” Tyagi said.
After the smoggy conditions — from October 27 to November 8 — led to increased pollution levels, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) concluded that the Capital cannot afford more pollution.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director in-charge of the air pollution and transportation programme at the CSE, said, “There is no room for more pollution this winter. We need focused and aggressive action to control air pollution to protect public health.”
Having studied data prepared by Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee, she said, “According to CPCB data, overall sulphur dioxide levels show a decline but the peak level has increased.”
“DPCC data shows that the levels of particulate matter less than 2.5 micron in size are 6 times higher than the standard level. There is no data to show how toxic chemicals and metals in crackers have added to the toxicity of the air. Diwali pollution has happened when Delhi’s air is already saturated after the recent severe smog episode,” she said.
“Don’t mistake the bright sunny morning — an unusual phenomenon a day after Diwali — for improved pollution levels in the Capital. Crackers have caused more pollution this year. The share of less noisy ones has gone up,” she said.
There’s, however, good news on the noise front. Of the nine locations at which CPCB monitored noise levels, Mayur Vihar phase II and Dilshad Garden have registered decrease. At all other locations, noise levels have remained the same compared to last Diwali.
DPCC undertook real time ambient air quality monitoring at six locations — RK Puram, Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh, Anand Vihar, Civil Lines and IGI Airport.