Delhi's air quality worsens as cracker ban goes up in smoke

Delhi: 4 Nov, 2021 (Times of India)


NEW DELHI: The national capital witnessed a major spike in pollution levels on the eve of Diwali as the air quality inched towards the "severe" mark with scores of people flouting the firecracker ban.

The situation was exacerbated by the seasonal farm fires, with the share of stubble burning in Delhi's pollution rising to 25 per cent on the morning of Diwali. It is expected to rise further in the coming days.

People from several parts of the city and its suburbs complained of itchy throat and watery eyes, as a layer of smog, the first episode this season, enveloped the environment, reported PTI.


Residents of Lajpat Nagar in South Delhi, Burari in North Delhi, Paschim Vihar in West Delhi and Shahdara in East Delhi reported incidents of firecracker bursting as early as 7 pm, despite the blanket ban in the national capital till January 1, 2022.

Several incidents of high-intensity cracker bursting were also reported from Gurugram and Faridabad.

Earlier, in the evening, a thick blanket of smog hung heavy over the sky even before the festivities had begun.

Air quality to plunge further

Experts have predicted the air quality in the national capital is likely to plunge to the severe category by midnight owing to unfavorable meteorological conditions - calm winds, low temperature and low mixing height - and a poisonous cocktail of emissions from firecrackers, stubble burning and local sources.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the “first episode of fog” in the capital reduced visibility at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and the Safdarjung Airport to the range of 600-800 metres in the morning.

“It continued to remain in the poor range of 800-900 meters in smog throughout the day due to calm wind conditions,” senior IMD scientist R K Jenamani told PTI.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the 24-hour average PM2.5 concentration in Delhi-NCR rose from 243 micrograms per cubic meter at 6 pm to 263 micrograms per cubic meter at 9 pm, more than four times the safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic meter.

The capital's 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) stood at 382 on Thursday, up from 314 on Wednesday. It was 303 on Tuesday and 281 on Monday.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'.
According to SAFAR model forecasts, stubble burning share may increase to 35 per cent on Friday and 40 per cent on Saturday with the wind direction changing to northwesterly.

Northwesterly winds carry smoke from farm fires in Punjab and Haryana towards the national capital.

Relief is expected only from the evening of November 7 but AQI will fluctuate within the 'very poor' range, the air quality forecast agency said.

The contribution of stubble burning in Delhi's PM2.5 concentration was 32 per cent on Diwali day last year as compared to 19 per cent in 2019.

On October 27, the Delhi government had launched the 'Patakhe Nahi Diye Jalao' campaign to create awareness against the bursting of crackers.

Under the campaign, action can be taken under relevant IPC provisions and the Explosives Act against anyone found burning crackers.

According to the government, more than 13,000 kg of illegal firecrackers have been seized and 33 people arrested so far under the anti-cracker campaign