- Chennai saw unprecedented levels of air pollution on Diwali
- Air quality in Delhi and Mumbai was marginally better than last year
- Kolkata also witnessed a spike in air pollution levels on Diwali
Severe air pollution levels made a comeback on the occasion of Diwali all across India, though some cities fared better than last year. Thick smog cover was visible across several cities in India post Diwali, as firecrackers were burst with ample enthusiasm. Despite the Supreme Court Ban on sales of firecrackers across the Delhi-NCR region, firecrackers made their presence felt in the city, especially post 7 pm. Data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)showed that the Air Quality Index (AQI) value of Delhi on the day of Diwali at 4 pm was a poor 319 and shot up to an average of 373 at 12 am on October 20. Anand Vihar in Delhi was the most polluted region, with an AQI of 403 and was labeled as “severe.”
The only saving grace for Delhi was perhaps that the air quality was better than last year. Compared to the poor 319 AQI of this year, last year saw the index reaching the severe level of 431. The Supreme Court’s order banning the sales of firecrackers seems to have marginal effect on the city’s air quality.
Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi lamented the attitude of Delhi’s residents, saying that the bursting of crackers was a dismissive attitude towards society and law.
I was hoping for a clean & peaceful Diwali. But again, every burst of cracker echoed Delhi's "I don't care" loud and clear. Delhiites continue to choke on pollution. It is a reflection of our dismissive & disrespectful attitude towards society, law & justice. When will we learn.
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) October 20, 2017
Mumbai also bore the brunt of emissions from firecrackers and a change in the weather. The AQI of Mumbai at 4 pm on October 19 was a moderate 165 and on 9 am on October 20 was 247. SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) had predicted that Mumbai’s air quality would remain poor over the weekend as pollution levels will rise from Friday evening onwards. But Mumbai too has marginally improved in curbing the air pollution menace. Compared to 2016’s AQI of 278 on Diwali and 315 the day after, Mumbai’s air pollution levels have indeed witnessed a decline.
Chennai was the worst among the metros in India, covered in a thick blanket of smog from Wednesday. Data released by the CPCB showed that particulate matter (PM) 2.5, the hazardous material responsible for air pollution and respiratory diseases hit a high of 936.69 μg/m³ between 11 and 11.59 pm at Chennai on the day prior to Diwali. In north Chennai, PM 2.5 reached 999 μg/m³ on the early hours of Thursday, between 12 am and 2 pm. Residential areas in Chennai were the worst sufferers, as many areas of Anna Salai, MKB Nagar and Ennore saw huge spikes in PM 2.5 levels, reaching unprecedented levels of as high as 550 μg/m³.
Chennai has poor air quality throughout the whole year and the week leading up to Diwali saw it deteriorate badly. The bursting of crackers this year was much more than previous years and the cloudy weather made it worse, resulting in increased PM 2.5 levels and smog. Chennai’s air quality this year is more dangerous than Delhi, said Rajiv Narayanan of the Chennai based environmental NGO Green Voice International.
Kolkata also fared worse than previous years as pollution levels kept spiking from October 17 onwards in the city. Ozone level in the area near Rabindra Bharat University reached a severe 451 on the morning of October 20 and was the most polluted spot in the country, as per data released from CPCB. Kolkata also witnessed a cloud cover and sporadic rainfall throughout the day of Diwali, resulting in easier settlement of pollutants in the air.
Some of the other states which recorded severely poor air quality due to incessant bursting of fire crackers were Bhiwadi in Rajasthan (AQI 425, Agra in Uttar Pradesh (AQI 332) and Ludhiana in Punjab (AQI 307). While Delhi and Mumbai can heave slight sighs of relief, given how their performances have become better compared to last year, Chennai and Kolkata have much to worry about as air pollution reached unprecedented an unprecedented high in many parts of these two cities this year.