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Delhi’s air quality hazardous, severe at several places after Diwali

The overall air quality index (AQI) in Delhi was recorded at 296 at 10pm after the Supreme Court’s deadline to burst crackers came to an end.

delhi Updated: Nov 08, 2018 12:01 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
post Diwali pollution,Delhi air quality,Supreme Court deadline for cracker
Heavy smog engulfed after diwali celebrations in National capital (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

Delhi was engulfed in a haze on Thursday morning as residents celebrated Diwali by bursting firecrackers on Wednesday despite the Supreme Court order against polluting fireworks, pushing up levels of harmful particulates to emergency levels.

Even though the Air Quality Index (AQI) value was recorded to be 350, which indicates very poor levels of air pollution, the level of PM2.5 – the ultra-fine and more harmful particulates – shot up to the emergency levels.

“The level of PM2.5, which are ultra-fine particles emitted mostly by combustions, have shot up at least 6.3 times above the safe standards. At 10 am the level of PM2.5 was 383ug/m3 which is way above the daily permissible limit of 60ug/m3,” a scientist with the Central Pollution Control Board said.

The level of PM10 – the coarser dust particles – however, were still in the very poor stage. Around 10am, the level was 385ug/m3 which is around 3.8 times above the safe level of 100ug/m3.

“This clearly indicates that man-made emissions and not natural dust are responsible. The unfavourable weather conditions such as low wind speed and moisture might have compounded the problem,” D Saha, former head of the board’s air quality laboratory, said.

News agency ANI reported Air Quality Index (AQI) in Anand Vihar was 999, the area around the US embassy in Chanakyapuri 459 and that around the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium was 999, all of which falls under the hazardous category.

It said particulate matter — PM2.5 and PM10 — were at 500 or severe level in Lodhi Road area citing data from AQI.

The Supreme Court had allowed bursting firecrackers only for two hours on Diwali in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) and permitted manufacturing and sale of only “green crackers” with low emission of light, sound and smoke.

Senior Delhi Police officials admitted “sporadic” breaches of the top court’s order on bursting crackers beyond the 8pm to 10pm time frame fixed by it.

“In some areas, people have been found burning firecrackers beyond 8pm-10pm time frame. The exact number of violation is yet to be ascertained. But, we will take strict action against them,” an official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI on Wednesday.

Urbanemissions, an Indian environment research group, said that close to five million kilograms of five crackers were burnt on Diwali night in Delhi-NCR after analysing the pollution levels on Thursday. This equates to 1.50 lakh kilos of PM2.5 being added to the air.

Government agencies such as System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR) had predicted Delhi could encounter severe levels of pollution from November 8 even if 50% of the firecrackers as compared to 2017 were burst this year.

Scientists had also forecast that the pollution would linger over the next two days till November 10, as weather conditions would be unfavourable. They said Delhi would face the impact of stubble burning from November 8 as weather conditions would become adverse.

Delhi, a city of nearly 16 million, recorded its worst air quality of the season on Monday, when the pollution levels were eight times the permissible limit as a thick haze engulfed the city.

The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) on Tuesday was recorded at 320, which falls in the ‘very poor’ category, according to data by the CPCB. It was a slight improvement over Monday’s AQI of 434 or ‘severe’ category.

Doctors have said the impact of air pollution on public health can be compared to smoking 15-20 cigarettes a day.

Delhi had seen the worst smog in 17 years in 2016 during the post-Diwali period. In 2017, there was a ban on the sale of crackers but Delhi still witnessed a very poor air quality a day after Diwali.

First Published: Nov 08, 2018 08:05 IST