Day after Diwali, Punjab AQI worsens to ‘very poor’ level
The air quality index (AQI) in Punjab deteriorated on Monday, a day after Diwali, to what the pollution control agencies categorise as ‘very poor’, a cumulative effect of bursting of crackers and a spurt in farm fire incidents.
On Monday, all the major cities of the state such as Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala recorded AQI above 300, with the air considered toxic enough to cause respiratory illnesses after a prolonged exposure.
This despite the fact that average air-quality index of the state on Sunday, the Diwali day, was 210 against 234 and 328 in 2018 and 2017, as per the data captured by continuous ambient air-quality monitoring stations in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Khanna, Mandi Gobindgarh, Patiala, Bathinda and Rupnagar.
A Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) official said the actual impact of bursting of crackers is seen by the next day. “Even though our department is claiming that its pollution is less than previous years, it is a harsh reality that AQI of all major cities remained above 350 on Monday, which indicates we are breathing a toxic air,” he added.
The Supreme Court’s orders that crackers should be burst only between 8pm and 10pm was also flouted across the state, as people started the same in the evening and continued well past midnight.
Also, the farmers also took advantage of the festival, as nearly 5,000 farm fire incidents were reported on a day before and on Diwali.
“People with asthmatic problems face serious problem when AQI is ‘very poor’. The impact of deteriorated AQI due to bursting of crackers will lead to more breathing problems, as dust particles and toxic matter in the air remain higher than normal days,” said Dr Rajesh Kumar, a medical practitioner.
PPCB officials claimed that there was a decrease in bursting of crackers this time and pollution dipped by 10% than last year.
Board chairman Prof SS Marwaha said awareness campaigns against bursting of crackers by schools to educate students regarding ill-effects of cracker bursting and the role played by government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in this regard have started showing the results.
“Last year, the average particulate matter 10 (PM10) was 277µgm/m3 and PM2.5 was 126 µgm/m3 whereas this year these are 212 µgm/m3 and 117 µgm/m3, resulting in 23.46% and 7.14% reduction. As compared to 2017, this year’s reduction in PM10 is 52% and 48% in PM2.5, indicating an improvement in air quality on Diwali day,” he added.
Particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM10 level in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala was recorded above 500, the highest which is to be recorded.