The national Capital’s notoriously poisonous air worsened on Diwali night with tonnes of fireworks going up in smoke, though the Delhi government claimed that the situation had improved marginally from last year following a slew of anti-cracker appeals by authorities and celebrities.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee in a release stated that the 24-hour ambient pollution level may have seen a slight improvement over the last year’s average on the same day.
“The ambient pollution level on Diwali may have seen a slight improvement over the previous year due to comparatively less crackers and mild wind in some parts. The recorded wind speed this Diwali was 1.19 metre per second in contrast to 0.62 m/s in 2014 – the wind speed this Diwali had almost doubled,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, though she added that people breathed several times higher pollution than the ambient level monitored by the DPCC.
The CSE noted a dramatic build-up of pollution as firecrackers started to go off on Wednesday and then hit dangerous levels of exposure. The agency conducted a study on Diwali night apart from analysing the official ambient monitoring data the same evening.
According to real-time hourly data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, pollution levels soared about 23 times higher than acceptable in arguably the city’s most toxic spot.
Coarse particles in the air called PM10 that directly affect breathing shot up to 2,308 micrograms per cubic metre (mpcm) in east Delhi’s Anand Vihar at around 11 pm with 100mpcm set as the safe limit. The finer PM2.5 particles that can trigger respiratory problems touched an alarmingly high level of 619mpcm in Anand Vihar on Wednesday midnight, while the permissible limit is 60mpcm.
The air quality in the Capital, declared the world’s most polluted city by the WHO last year, nosedives around Diwali with widespread bursting of firecrackers, while the homeless burn wood to stay warm as winter sets in and neighbouring states set fire to crop waste to clear farmland.
Experts say these particulate matters are extremely dangerous for people suffering from asthma and other breathing and cardiac disorders as well as the children and elderly.
Every year, air pollution levels start to escalate at around 6pm on Diwali, peak between 10pm and midnight and remain unhealthy till about 6am the next day.