Post Diwali, air quality in Northern cities worsens

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on October 28, 2019

Thick smog hangs over Delhi NCR on Thursday, a day after Diwali was celebrated with bursting of crackers far beyond the two-hour limit set by the Supreme Court RV Moorthy

Delhi, Noida worst affected; situation likely to worsen soon as stubble burning is set to begin

After a night of rampant firecracker explosions on Sunday, several parts of the country, including the National Capital Region, woke up to noxious air and an envelop of haze.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences declared that the air quality across Delhi and Noida had entered the ‘severe,’ zone since early Monday morning. The Northern cities of Moradabad, Meerut and Ludhiana were also affected.

However, other major cities such as Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad in the western parts of the country recorded a bearable two-digit Air Quality Index (AQI).

According to the Central Pollution Control Board figures, at 11 pm, when firecracker bursting was at its peak, air quality monitors kept at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (JLN) in the Capital recorded an AQI of 999, so did the area around Mother Dairy in Patparganj and RK Puram.

Jahangirpuri followed close on the heels with an AQI of 758. The pollution levels were over 12 to 17 times the healthy limits during the past 24 hours. According to a press release issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the Delhi government measured the levels of pollution at the 24 designated locations in Delhi on Diwali night.

“It is pertinent to note here that the pollution levels were low as compared to the Diwali nights of the previous years,” observed MoEF officials. However, around midnight the pollutant levels had hit the roof, and crossed the thousand mark.

MoEF statistics stated that on Diwali day 2019 the city average concentration (for 24 hrs) for PM 2.5 ranged from 58 micrograms per cubic metre to 1,070 micrograms per cubic metre. The levels peaked around midnight. While Najafgarh recorded the minimum levels (168), the maximum concentration was observed at Vivek Vihar (687). Last year, on the same day, average concentration for PM 2.5 ranged from 69 to 1,560 micrograms per cubic metre.

The most polluted regions among the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) monitoring stations on Monday morning were Delhi University (where AQI crossed 500) followed by Noida, the update stated.

“The share of particulate matter of 2.5 micron size (PM2.5) in PM10 has gone up from 50 per cent to 70-75 per cent indicating that local fireworks have generated this impact,” the statement issued by SAFAR said.

PM 2.5 is more deadly than PM 10 as it is finer and causes greater irritation to lungs and is the root cause of respiratory disorders.

That the wind on Monday is not stagnant and blowing at a moderate speed will offer some respite to residents in northern regions, especially in NCR, and it has been predicted that the air quality will again settle a notch below ‘severe,’ at ‘very poor,’ SAFAR predicted.

Before Diwali, MoEF officials were hoping that this season, residents of NCR would breathe better air, but that was not to be. “I would be very happy if the air quality settles at ‘very poor,’ and does not deteriorate,” said CK Mishra, Secretary, MoEF.

Stubble burning woes

While the response to green crackers was lukewarm, the air continued to be toxic as people burst firecrackers despite repeated appeals by the Delhi government to celebrate a pollution-free Diwali by organising laser light shows in the heart of the city at Connaught Place.

To add to the woes, after October 29, stubble burning will increase, SAFAR has warned.

“Haryana and Punjab fire count has almost doubled from 1,200 to 2,700 over the past 48 hours, but moderate surface winds will not allow rapid accumulation of pollutants in Delhi,” the SAFAR advisory stated.


Published on October 28, 2019

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