Air quality in New Delhi deteriorated alarmingly on Diwali night as pollution levels spiked higher than the normal in one of the most polluted spots of the Capital.
According to real time ambient air quality data of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM10 readings went up by over 42 times on Sunday from the national ambiance air quality standard at RK Puram. At 10.55pm, PM10 was recorded at 4,273 µg/m³. PM2.5 also touched an alarming high at 748µg/m³ at 2.30am here.
A DPCC official, however, said it was a mechanical error that showed the readings above 4,200µg/m³ at RK Puram. The maximum PM10 reading was recorded at 1am and it touched 1,442µg/m³, he said.
The permissible level of PM 2.5 is 60µg/m³ while PM10 is 100 µg/m³. Levels beyond that can cause harm to the respiratory system as the ultra fine particulates can embed themselves deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.
Similarly at Anand Vihar -- arguably the most polluted spot in the city -- PM10 was at its peak at 3.30am at over 1,680µg/m³ while PM2.5 touched 883µg/m³ at 2.30am. In Punjabi Bagh, PM2.5 was at its peak at 2am and was recorded at 678µg/m³, while PM10 was recorded as 1,560µg/m³, highest at 10.30pm.
Data from the Hindustan Times air quality map, too, showed that the air quality index had peaked -- touching the maximum limit of 500 -- in almost all monitoring spots in the city as fireworks induced smoke as part of Diwali festivities blanketed the city.
Air pollution level is classified as severe if the AQI is between 401 and 500. China declares a ‘red alert’ if air quality plunges to this level. If the alarming pollution levels continue for three consecutive days, China facilitates measures such as shutting down schools and offices, closing down industries and power plants, and road rationing of vehicles.
At Shantipath, PM2.5 levels reached to over 20 times the safe limit and touched 1217.6 µg/m³ at 1.19am.
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Centre’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) monitoring had the average levels of PM2.5 and PM10, at 283 and 517 respectively around 6am. SAFAR had, in its Diwali forecast, said the city’s air will be severely polluted on October 30 and 31.
According to SAFAR’s special Diwali forecast, pollution during this year’s Diwali is expected to be worse than 2014 and 2015 due to a combination of adverse meteorogical factors like slow wind speed and moisture in the air, a major hindrance in the dispersion of suspended pollutants.
SAFAR has advised people to avoid all outdoor physical activity. People with heart or lung diseases, elderly, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low when air quality turns “severe”, it said. People with existing heart or lung diseases such as asthma, congestive heart disease, or ischemic heart disease should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion when the air quality is “very poor”.
Pollution peaks in the national capital during Diwali as a hazardous mix of noxious gases and respirable pollutants hang very close to the surface due to low temperature and near stagnant wind movement.
The city of about 20 million, which ranks among the world’s top cities with foul air on a WHO list, has been struggling to clean its air that contains a toxic cocktail of dust, smoke and gases from vehicle, factory exhausts and coal-fired power stations.
The condition worsens every autumn and winter as the city, buffeted by farmers burning crop stalks in neighbouring states and atmospheric changes, records higher levels of air pollution.