Delhi’s air quality dipped to its most severe levels due to the bursting of firecrackers during Diwali and stubble burning in adjoining States, with hospitals seeing an increase in the number of patients complaining of respiratory tract problems.

The Capital’s air quality is expected to remain well beyond healthy levels till Saturday, but some respite is expected from Sunday.

“Delhi recorded the lowest pollution levels in October this year, compared to the last five years. But the pollution level has been increasing for the last three days on account of bursting of firecrackers and an increase in stubble burning,” said Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai.

NASA images show that stubble is being burnt at 3,500 places (up from 1,000 in last week of October) on Friday.

“A huge chunk of Delhi’s population did not burst crackers, but some people did it intentionally because of which the pollution levels have increased.”


‘Very poor’ category

On Thursday evening (Diwali day), the overall air quality of Delhi plunged into the upper end of the ‘very poor category’ as predicted by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).

SAFAR has predicted that relief is expected only from the evening of November 7, but the Air Quality Index (AQI) will fluctuate within the ‘very poor’ range.

According to SAFAR, firework emissions on Diwali night degraded the air quality from ‘very poor’ to ‘severe category’ as predicted by SAFAR. The share of stubble emissions peaked on Friday at 36 per cent, and will touch approximately 40 per cent on November 6 and 7.

It further added that the share of PM 2.5 pollutants is higher when compared to 2020, but much lesser than 2018. However, it may be noted that local winds have picked up since morning and fast dispersion is expected.

Without any more firecracker emissions, AQI is likely to improve to the ‘very poor’ category by Friday night, although stubble contribution is expected to remain almost the same. “From Sunday onwards the winds will increase, which will dismiss the accumulation of pollution and it will come down to the very poor category in Delhi.

“Besides, if there is heavy rain — which is highly unlikely as of now — the pollution can come to moderate category as well,” said BS Murthy, Project Director at SAFAR.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board data, as of 3 pm on Friday, most of the areas of the National Capital had an AQI level above 450.

“This year the month of October was cleaner compared to previous years, but in November as the winter started setting in, the air quality has deteriorated,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Executive Director-Research, Centre for Science and Environment, adding that farm fires and crackers are the primary triggers of rising pollution in the Capital.

Takes a toll on health

Hospitals saw people turning up with asthma and breathing difficulties.

“As usual, this Diwali also the air quality is becoming poor. There is already a rise in number of respiratory problems such as viral pneumonia, asthma, COPD attacks and chest infections. They present with breathing difficulty, cough, fever, increased sputum and sleep disturbances. People should wear masks, continue preventive therapies and consider vaccination for flu and pneumonia after consulting a doctor.

“They should restrict outdoor activities to minimum. Avoid running and strenuous exercises outside if the air quality is poor. Avoid cold beverages. Also quit smoking,” said Dr Manoj Goel, Director, Pulmonology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.

(With inputs from Monika Yadav)