Punjab’s air quality up in flames again this Diwali, but crackers alone may not be culprits
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Punjab’s air quality up in flames again this Diwali, but crackers alone may not be culprits

Data released by Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) says AQI on Diwali last year went up from 130 a day before to 228 on the day, “an increase of 70% in pollution level”. But this was only 24% this year.

punjab Updated: Oct 21, 2017 09:49 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times, Patiala
Diwali,AQI,Air Quality index
Residents celebrate Diwali in Patiala on Thursday night. (Bharat Bhushan/HT)

Punjab’s air quality this Diwali on October 19 was much worse than last year, when the festival fell on October 30, shows data released by the state’s pollution monitoring agency. However, if compared to a day before Diwali, the contribution of the festival marked by lights and firecrackers may even have fallen. And the underlying reason — burning of paddy stubble — has also contributed a significant deal.

On the face of it, despite timing restrictions on burning crackers — 6.30 to 9.30pm — the state witnessed a polluting Diwali, as the Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 328 in the ‘very poor’ bracket. AQI up to 100 is considered acceptable.Yet, data released by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) underlines that AQI on Diwali last year went up from 130 a day before to 228 on the day, “thereby recording an increase of 70% in pollution level”. Simply put, the increase was 98 AQI points. This year,on the other hand, Diwali day saw AQI increasing to 328 as compared to 265 on the day before, “indicating an increase in pollution level by 24% only”, said the PPCB. In absolute numbers, this means an increase of 63 AQI points.

Also, this time on Diwali, the state recorded the highest number of straw-burning cases in a single day, despite a ban by the National Green Tribunal and the government. The number was 1,188, as compared to average of 400 per day, showed satellite-based monitoring.

City-wise data

If one takes into account the AQI — which includes particulate matter and four polluting gases — the three continuous monitoring stations, at Amritsar, Mandi Gobindgarh and Ludhiana, showed alarming levels. At Mandi Gobindgarh, it was recorded at 287, Ludhiana at 379, and Amritsar (Golden Temple) at 318.

And the level of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) or PM10 (having diameter less than or equal to 10 micrometre) this year has been higher than last year too, “because of low level of air dispersion due to very low wind velocity and early harvesting of paddy crop”, according to a PPCB press release. PM10 was recorded at an alarming 592 in Ludhiana, whereas it is considered safe below 80. In Amritsar, it was 433, and 264 in Mandi Gobindgarh. Worse, PM2.5 figures were recorded for Amritsar at 231, Ludhiana at 290, and Mandi Gobindgarh at 156.

Who’s to blame?

“On normal days, Mandi Gobindgarh is considered the most polluted city in terms of AQI, because of the iron industry. However, with no major bursting of crackers here, its air quality didn’t deteriorate much,” said a PPCB engineer. “But AQI worsened in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, for which crackers are responsible. Farmers also used Diwali as an opportunity to burn paddy straw, by showing it as incidental fire.”

Here, too, the PPCB press release claimed a comparative drop, though. Giving city-wise details, a spokesman said increase in AQI in Mandi Gobindgarh was noted as 17% this year on Diwali as compared to 163% last year. Similarly, this increase in Ludhiana was 24% this year as compared to 50% last year. Amritsar witnessed 45% spike this year as compared to 63% on Diwali day last year.

7 held for bursting crackers after 9.30, ten held for selling sans licence

MOGA: The district police on Friday booked seven persons for allegedly bursting crackers after 9.30pm, the deadline set by the Punjab and Haryana high court, while 10 shopkeepers were arrested for selling crackers without licence. With the aim of curbing pollution, the HC on October 13 had directed that crackers could be burnt only between 6.30 and 9.30 pm on Diwali day in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The high court had also directed the authorities to issue only 20% of last year’s licences for setting up cracker shops this year. Cases have been registered under section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code.

First Published: Oct 20, 2017 19:45 IST