Diwali fireworks push air pollution to ‘severe’ level in India’s capital

A thick haze engulfed ITO on Diwali day

A thick haze engulfed ITO on Diwali day

Partly as a result of smoke from the firecrackers, the overall air quality index (AQI) in Delhi jumped to 574 which falls in the "severe-plus emergency" category, according to data by the centre-run SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research).

Delhi's air quality typically worsens in winter, as clouds of smoke from farmers' fires billow into the city and mix with industrial and traffic emissions to form a noxious cocktail. The pollution level in the air got decreased by 29% this Diwali while there was 36 per cent and 44 per cent reduction in PM10 and PM2.5 levels respectively.

Diwali is always one of the worst times of year for air quality, as firework smoke mixes with auto exhaust fumes, factory emissions and construction dust.

Pollution in the Indian capital, New Delhi, rose to a "severe" level on Thursday after revellers let off fireworks long into the night to mark the Hindu festival of Diwali.

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A "very poor" AQI translates into spike in respiratory illnesses and if the air quality dips further, the AQI turns "severe", which troubles healthy individuals and seriously affects those with health issues. These indices measure the concentration of tiny poisonous particulate matter.

The Supreme Court had allowed people to burst firecrackers from 8 pm to 10 pm only on Diwali and other festivals.

"This year, Diwali day shows that the PM10 and PM2.5 values have increased this year compared to 2017". The Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) air quality forecast suggests that air quality will continue at "very poor" levels for the next three days across NCR. This, they said was much higher than previous years.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Protection Authority said it was closely monitoring the situation and if the pollution shows an increasing trend then emergency measures will be imposed in the national capital.

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The Supreme Court had allowed bursting of crackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali.

The SAFAR had warned that even if partial toxic firecrackers as compared to a year ago were burnt, then the air quality would fall in the "severe" category.

The court had asked the police to ensure that banned firecrackers were not sold and said in case of any violation, the station house officer (SHO) of the police station concerned would be held personally liable and it would amount to committing contempt of court.

India is home to 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world (WHO).

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