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A MIASMA OF SMOG

Post-Diwali air quality ‘severe’

The US embassy''s pollution monitor records ''hazardous'' air21 Oct 2017 | 12:31 AM

NEW DELHI:Even as the Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi, people celebrated Diwali festivities by bursting crackers during the night with the result air quality took a sharp plunge and entered the severe zone today.

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Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 20

Even as the Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi, people celebrated Diwali festivities by bursting crackers during the night with the result air quality took a sharp plunge and entered the severe zone today.

However, unlike previous years, the run-up to the festivities was much cleaner this time.

The evening was better, but with the passage of time cracker bursting went high and the air quality went down. At some monitoring centres, the machine stopped showing how much air quality had gone down. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), agencies of Union government and the WHO were busy in monitoring the air quality.       

The pollution indicator of state-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) turned a deep shade of brown, indicating 'severe' air quality in the city, which might affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, an official of the Environment Department of Delhi Government said.

The 24-hour rolling average of PM2.5 and PM10, ultrafine particulates which are up to 30 times tinier than the width of a human hair, were 424 and 571 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) respectively, multiple times higher than the safe limits of 60 and 100, he said.

The US embassy's pollution monitor recorded 'hazardous' air quality with the index scoring an alarming 878, which the mission considers "beyond its air quality index" (AQI), which ends at 500.

Even the Diwali evening was relatively quiet and promising, suggesting that the ban on sale of firecrackers in the Delhi-NCR region has worked.

This was captured by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) which had Delhi's AQI (air quality index) at 319, which is considered 'very poor', for October 20. However, since the figure was released at 5 pm, it could not quite record what followed thereafter.

As the clock ticked, frenzied celebrations picked up and noisy and relentless bursting of firecrackers continued till the wee hours, sending pollution graph off the charts.

The online indicators of pollution monitoring stations in the city glowed red, indicating a '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 7 pm yesterday.

The line graphs of the pollution data of the DPCC stations said the volume of PM2.5 and PM10 built up rapidly around 7 pm and peaked post midnight, soaring up to 10 times above the safe 24-hour limits.

For example, the RK Puram monitoring station recorded PM2.5 and PM10 at 878 and 1,179 micrograms per cubic metre at around 11 pm.

The monitors stopped working after midnight, suggesting that the pollutants had gone through the roof.

Air quality 'much better' post-Diwali: Vardhan 

Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said today the air quality in Delhi a day after Diwali was "much better" compared to last year and the number of 'poor and very poor' days have come down significantly.

"It is not even 24 hours since the Diwali celebrations, every person is breathing normally and no person is having difficulty in breathing. There is no smog," he said.

Vardhan said his ministry had "prepared even more" this year.

"I personally wrote to 2-2.5 lakh school principals across the country. In Delhi, thousands of children campaigned for green and 'Harit Diwali' for the past two months... It is the result of these (steps) that this year (the air quality) is much better," he said.

(With PTI inputs)

Post-Diwali air quality ‘severe’Commuters drive amid heavy smog at Vijay Chowk, a day after the Diwali celebrations in New Delhi on Friday. In the centre of the background is the RashtrapatiBhavan, India''s presidential palace partially visible. Tribune Photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui
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