In no respite to citizens in the national capital, air quality on Monday plummeted to season’s worst, going down from ‘very poor’ to ‘severe’, a day after Diwali despite restrictions on firecrackers.
Delhi woke up to a smog-hazed morning with an overall air quality index (AQI) showing 463 at 11.30 am, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). Some monitoring stations even showed areas recording AQI crossing the 600-mark, with multiple reports saying the Patparganj area in Delhi saw the AQI reading of 999, which is the maximum available number on the index.
But this year’s post-Diwali morning was marginally better than 2018 when Delhi’s overall AQI had crossed the 600-mark, which is 12 times the safe limit.
Delhi’s nightmare of “severe” air pollution post-Diwali came true despite the Supreme Court’s order that only green firecrackers, which cause 30 per cent less pollution, can be manufactured, sold and burst in the two-hour window of 8-10pm. The Arvind Kejriwal government also organised a mega laser show at Cannaught Place in an effort to dissuade people from bursting crackers.
Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor, SAFAR, said levels of PM2.5 — tiny particulate matter of diameter 2.5 or less than 2.5 microns that can enter deep into the lungs — reached as high as 735 at Delhi University.
However, SAFAR’s earlier forecast was that, with 50% of last year’s fireworks, “the peak levels of PM10 and PM2.5 are expected between 1-6am on the night of 27-28, October. Air Quality will be Severe on 28th November under the influence of firecrackers emissions (with 50% scenario, if any) for a short period and start to improve thereafter.”
The AQI at Pusa, Lodhi Road, Airport Terminal T3, Noida, Mathura Road, Ayanagar, IIT Delhi, Dhirpur, and Chandni Chowk in the morning was 480, 436, 460, 668, 413, 477, 483, 553 and 466, respectively.
However, even at 2:30 pm, as per SAFAR’s AQI monitor, Delhi University area, Pusa, Lodi Road, IIT Delhi, and Chandni Chowk continue to stay in the ‘severe’ category. Pollutant PM 10’s level at Chandni Chowk in Delhi has crossed the 600-mark and both PM 2.5 and PM 10 have crossed that bar at Noida in Delhi NCR.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered “good”, 51-100 “satisfactory”, 101-200 “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor”, and 401-500 “severe”. Above 500 is “severe-plus emergency” category.
SAFAR also said in its Diwali forecast that stubble burning incidents in Haryana and Punjab had more than doubled over two days before Diwali, surging from 1,200 to 2,700, and it was going to affect Delhi’s air quality.
Central Pollution Control Board’s AQI monitoring is showing a somewhat different reading with most stations now recording a ‘very poor’ level, down from ‘severe’ in the morning.
The court order and government curbs were flouted in many places as the fire department received more than 200 complaints.
The fire department said 245 fire-related calls were received by its control room till midnight on Diwali and 96 more calls till 10 am on Monday.
Last night, people reported violation of the Supreme Court-enforced two-hour window in Malviya Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Kailash Hills, Burari, Jangpura, Shahdara, Laxmi Nagar, Mayur Vihar, Sarita Vihar, Hari Nagar, New Friends Colony, Hauz Khas, Gautam Nagar, Dwarka among others places.
The morning haze and AQI readings shooting up resulted in significant social media reactions. As netizens trended #DelhiChokes on Twitter, some expressed anger and frustration over the recurring issue while others played defensive.