Delhi wakes up to choking air quality post Diwali

Auto rickshaw drivers pass a building site in Old Delhi

Surprisingly, the capital city fared worst when compared to the other South Indian cities, all of which recorded a "satisfactory" air quality, on the day of Diwali. It also said that only less polluting firecrackers could be made and sold.

Mumbai Mirror conducted a pollution test drive and joined volunteers of Aawaz Foundation to see how noisy the city was and Urban Sciences employee Naved Nakadar to check the air quality this Diwali. While decibel levels were monitored on November 1, 7 and 9, the monitoring of ambient air quality levels is being done since October 31 and will continue till November 15.

The apex court had allowed bursting of firecrackers from 8 pm to 10 pm only on Diwali and other festivals.

Two federal government pollution indices showed air at "very poor" and "severe" levels, indicating that prolonged exposure could lead to respiratory illnesses.

The permissible limit for PM2.5 and PM10 is 60 and 80 units by national standards and 25 and 50 units by worldwide standards.

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The order was flouted at many places in the two states as people started bursting crackers well before 8 pm and continued beyond 10 pm. The police said it can only take legal action against the violators of the Supreme Court order "but at the end of the day, it is also the responsibility of the public to follow the order". Zones like ITO, Anand Vihar, and Jahangirpuri recorded high contamination levels.

There was anguish and searching questions on the yawning gap between the law and its enforcement as the sun struggled to shine through murky skies, particularly in the Delhi-NCR region which recorded its worst air quality of the year. The largest decrease was recorded in their monitoring station at NIMHANS where AQI of 83 was recorded, a significant drop from162 recorded a year ago. The bulletin provides the AQI in major cities as on November 6 at 4 pm, based on the average of the past 24 hours.

Delhi's air quality typically worsens in winter, due to pollution from the burning of rice stubble, diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.

The online indicators of the pollution monitoring stations in the city indicated "poor" and "very poor" air quality as the volume of ultra-fine particulates PM2.5 and PM10, which enter the respiratory system and manage to reach the bloodstream, sharply rose from around 8 pm. Questioned about the air quality readings, West Bengal Pollution Control Board chairperson Kalyan Rudra refused to draw any conclusion about the improvement or deterioration in the air pollution during Kali Puja and Diwali.

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