A thick blanket of smog engulfed the India capital on Thursday morning, with the air quality deteriorating to the ‘hazardous’ category, the after Delhites celebrated the festival of lights, Diwali with firecrackers despite the apex court deadline.
The As of & am today (Nov 8), the air quality index at several areas in the capital hit the maximum limit of 999, the healthy limit being 50, with heavy pollution from PM2.5 and PM10, particles with diameters under 2.5 micrometres and 10 micrometres, respectively. PM2.5 is responsible for average lifespans in Indian cities by 1.53 years. This makes PM2.5 almost as deadly as tobacco smoking.
According to reports, the Air Quality Index (AQI) at Anand Vihar was recorded at 999, the area around the US Embassy and Chanakyapuri at 459, and the area around Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium was recorded at 999, which fell under the ‘hazardous’ category.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), on Wednesday night, the air quality had deteriorated to the ‘very poor’ category as Delhiites continued to burst firecrackers long after the deadline set by SC. The overall AQI) was recorded at 302 at 11 pm, which fell in the ‘very poor’ category.
According to the CPCB data, the air quality started deteriorating rapidly from 7 pm. The AQI was 281 at 7 pm and it rose to 291 at 8 pm and further deteriorated to 294 at 9 pm and 296 at 10 pm.
Even before Diwali, Delhi’s air turned toxic. On November 5, pollution levels hit 20 times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limit as a result of change in the wind direction and lower temperatures.
The Supreme Court had allowed bursting of firecrackers from 8 pm to 10 pm only on Diwali and other festivals. It had also allowed manufacture and sale of only ‘green crackers’, which have a low light and sound emission and less harmful chemicals. But despite the apex court order, there were reports of its violation from many areas long after 10 pm.
Violations of the Supreme Court order were reported from Mayur Vihar Extension, Lajpat Nagar, Lutyens Delhi, IP extension, Dwarka, Noida Sector 78 among other places. The police admitted it by adding that they would take serious legal action against those violating the apex court order.
SAFAR forecast ‘bad’ air quality Thursday even though partially toxic crackers were burst as compared to 2017. It also added that the pollution levels would peak between 11 am and 3 am Wednesday and Thursday.
The situation was similar, if not worse, in the neighbouring areas of Delhi such as Gurugram, Noida and Ghaziabad, where crackers were burst as usual which raised question marks on the efficacy of the administration.
According to a Delhi Fire Services officer, 209 calls were received by the Delhi Fire Services on Diwali, including one related to a huge fire in a factory at Bawana and among these, 89 calls were related to fire incidents at garbage and dump-yards, while the rest were related to fire incidents involving electric wires, at factories and residential areas, added the official source.
He also added that the number of calls related to firecrackers was comparatively low, but there was no decline in the number of calls related to fire incidents.
Though Delhi routinely makes the lists of the world’s most polluted cities, the situation inevitably worsens this year at this time due to several others reason.
According to reports, farmers in neighbouring states such as Punjab and Haryana begin to burn crop residue; the smoke from these places inevitably reaches Delhi, as its geographical location. Then slow wind speeds keep the smoke suspended over the city, which topped by the Diwali celebration as bursting huge amounts of firecrackers.
Delhi Fire Service in collaboration with Delhi government has launched a 10-day ‘Clean Air Campaign’ from November 1 to 10 to monitor and report polluting activities as well as to ensure quick action.
About 52 teams were deployed under the campaign and they had visited different parts of Delhi and the adjacent towns of Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Noida, which were led by the sub-divisional magistrates of the respective areas and comprise senior officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), representatives of the CPCB, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).