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Delhi Records Worst Post-Diwali AQI In 5 Years, Not Even Smog Towers Could Help

A thick layer of acrid smog hung over Delhi-NCR on Friday after residents flouted the ban on firecrackers to celebrate Diwali and emissions from farm fires in the region peaked at 36 per cent.

Diwali 2021 led to the worst air quality in Delhi in five years PTI/File Photo

Be it the blatant violation of the cracker ban or alleged increase in stubble burning incidents on Diwali, the post-festival air quality in Delhi on November 5 was the poorest it has been in five years. The deadly cocktail of noxious fumes from firecrackers as well as the toxic smoke from stubble burning pushed the 24-hour average AQI to 462, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) noted on Friday. The quality of air in the capital was so poor that even the Arvind Kejriwal government's newly launched snog towers in the capital could not help.

Worst in five years

The 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) the day after Diwali was 435 last year, 368 in 2019; 390 in 2018; 403 in 2017 and 445 in 2016. The AQI was 382 on Diwali day this year, 414 in 2020; 337 in 2019; 281 in 2018; 319 in 2017 and 431 in 2016.

Thick layer of smog

A thick layer of acrid smog hung over Delhi-NCR on Friday after residents flouted the ban on firecrackers to celebrate Diwali and emissions from farm fires in the region peaked at 36 per cent.

Residents in many parts of Delhi-NCR complained of an itchy throat and watery eyes on Friday. The neighbouring cities of Faridabad (469), Greater Noida (464), Ghaziabad (470), Gurgaon (472) and Noida (475) also recorded 'severe' air pollution levels.

Smog tower to not avail

Even the recently-launched smog tower at Connaught Place could not give breathable air to residents nearby on Diwali night as the air quality across Delhi-NCR nosedived to the "severe" zone following rampant cracker bursting, government data showed.

Around 9 pm on Thursday, the 24-metre-high air purifier, considered the first such structure in India, recorded a PM2.5 concentration of 642 micrograms per cubic metre at the inlet and 453 micrograms per cubic metre at the outlet.

The smog tower could only reduce the PM10 level from 649 micrograms per cubic metre to 511 micrograms per cubic metre, as per the readings taken at 9 pm.

The safe limit for the lung-damaging fine particles PM2.5 and PM10 is 60 micrograms per cubic metre and 100 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively.

Cracker ban failure

Ahead of the festive season, the Delhi government had announced a complete ban on firecrackers till January 1, 2022, and ran an aggressive campaign against their sale and use.

The Haryana government had imposed a ban on the sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in 14 of its districts in the National Capital Region. Green crackers were allowed on Diwali in Uttar Pradesh only for two hours in areas with moderate or better air quality.

However, on Diwali, crackers were incessantly burst across the capital despite the ban. 

On Friday, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai accused the BJP of ‘having ensured’ that crackers were burst in Delhi despite a ban on crackers announced by the Delhi government.

Rai also said in a statement that a major reason for alarming pollution levels was the sudden rise in incidents of stubble-burning in neighbouring states on Diwali day. “In the last week of October, there were 1000 instances a day of stubble burning. As per a NASA photo, since yesterday, more than 3500 instances of stubble-burning have been seen,” Rai said in his statement in Hindi.

(With PTI inputs)

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