Hope Everyone Had a Happy, Cracker-Filled Diwali. Good Luck With the Severe AQI Now

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Hope Everyone Had a Happy, Cracker-Filled Diwali. Good Luck With the Severe AQI Now

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

Several parts of India violated the firecracker ban on Diwali night and the scientific data is for everyone to see. The air quality, which was already in the severe category in many places, worsened on Sunday morning, according to the Central Pollution Control Board data. In Delhi, the AQI was 373 on Diwali morning and 462 the next morning.

AQI on Diwali morning was 156 in Ahmedabad, 235 on the morning after. In Amritsar, it was 301 on Diwali morning, 380 the morning after. In Delhi, the AQI was 373 on Diwali morning and 462 the next morning. Air pollution levels shot up seven to eight times the safe limit in many parts of the country.

Delhi, at the centre of the pollution debate, recorded an AQI of 414, the worst AQI in the city on Diwali since 2016. The AQI for PM2.5 pollutants stood at 460 in Pusa, 475 in Patparganj, 450 in Lodhi Road, 491 in Ashok Vihar, 500 in Jahangirpuri and 442 in the IGI airport area. Neighbouring areas of Faridabad (438), Ghaziabad (483), Greater Noida (439), Gurgaon (424) and Noida (466) also recorded their AQI in the severe category.

An AQI between 101 and 200 is considered moderate, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301- 400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’, while AQI above 500 falls in the severe plus category.

SAFAR had forecast pollution to touch the “severe” level the day after Diwali even if no firecrackers were burst. It said additional emissions through firecrackers and crop stubble led to hourly PM2.5 concentration crossing more than 1,000 g/m3 at several locations across Delhi. CPCB data shows that pollution peaked between midnight and 1 am, as crackers took centrestage. AQI rose from 414 at 4 pm to 446 by 8 pm and 460 by 1 am.

A spell of rain the following day proved a blessing, as it helped not only in settling pollutants but the increased wind speed led to an improved air quality on Sunday morning. LS Kurinji, research analyst at Council on Energy, Environment and Water, said, normally, the impact from firecrackers could hang in the air for several days, but the spell of rain controlled it within hours.

While there are also factors like stubble burning and vehicular emissions at play, the science is undeniable that crackers had a substantial impact on pollution levels during Diwali. Considering how dire the air quality is in many cities of our country, it is time to turn off this ticking time bomb through effective policy and stringent law and order implementation. Bans must not only exist on paper but enforced on the ground, every being has the right to breathe.

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