Colours on the ground, smoke in the air

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 07, 2015 00:04 IST

Colours ruled the streets on Friday, with people of all ages joining the Holi revelry and applying gulaal on each other, excited children running with their water guns and youngsters dancing to the beat of dhols.

But many residents complained of low visibility, difficulty in breathing and a burning sensation in their eyes. The reason: the Holika Dahan (bonfire) had resulted in thick smog across various parts of the city on Thursday night and Friday morning.

The United States Embassy and Consulates’ air quality monitor ranked Mumbai under the very unhealthy air quality index (AQI) on Friday. The AQI for particulate matter (PM2.5) in Bandra on Friday evening was 258.

Delhi’s AQI, on the other hand, was 175 for PM2.5, falling in the unhealthy category.
PM2.5 (particulate matter up to 2.5 micrometres in size) are tiny particles of dust, soot and pollutants that reduce visibility and can cause chest diseases when inhaled.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board did not release their data for pollutants in the air. Officials were not available for comment.

“On Thursday night, there were at least 100 bonfires in every ward, which caused the smoke. The situation was aggravated by dust from construction, roadwork and low temperature,” said Stalin D,environmentalist.

Environmentalists had earlier suggested the idea of one symbolic community bonfire to reduce pollution.

“Pollutants in the air get trapped in a particular layer through a process called inversion. This layer has a height of 3 to 5km during summer and 300m to 500m during winter. If there is low wind, less sunlight and drop in temperature, the layer becomes thicker. If the situation is reversed, the smoke gets dispersed,” said Rakesh Kumar, chief scientist, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Worli.

“Driving was difficult on Thursday. The smog was very close to the surface and our eyes were burning by the time we reached home,” said Anu Mehta, a resident of Andheri.

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