Air in Indian capital turns toxic after Diwali fireworks

Special Air in Indian capital turns toxic after Diwali fireworks
Diwali falls in a period when farmers in Delhi’s neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana burn the stubble left after harvesting to prepare their fields for the next crop. (AFP)
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Updated 05 November 2021

Air in Indian capital turns toxic after Diwali fireworks

Air in Indian capital turns toxic after Diwali fireworks
  • Concentration of lung-damaging particulate hit 999 per cubic meter in New Delhi on Friday against WHO safe limit of 25
  • Supreme Court recently imposed blanket ban on Diwali fireworks but ruling largely defied

NEW DELHI: Air quality in the Indian capital on Friday reached hazardous levels after Diwali revelers ignored a court ban on firecrackers to celebrate the festival of lights through the night.

Residents of New Delhi, home to 30 million people, woke up to grey skies blanketing the city, ranked the most polluted in the world.

According to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality based on the concentration of lung-damaging particulate matter known as PM2.5, levels stood at 999 per cubic meter on Friday morning against the World Health Organization’s safe limit of 25.

Dr. Rajendra Jenamani, of the Indian Meteorological Department, told Arab News: “The air quality was in the severe category on Friday. This severe condition has come in the last 18 hours.”

In a statement, officials responsible for the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, an Indian government initiative to measure the quality of air in the capital, said: “Firework emissions on the night of Diwali degraded air quality from very poor to severe category and relief is expected only from the evening of Nov. 7.”

Diwali is one of the most important festivals in India, during which Hindus celebrate the victory of good over evil, when mythical god Rama was said to have returned to his kingdom Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile.

As people traditionally celebrate the holiday with fireworks, the Supreme Court of India recently imposed a blanket ban on their use, but it was widely defied.

The effect of fireworks on Delhi’s air quality was compounded by the burning of stubble in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana, as Diwali coincided with the end of harvest season and farmers preparing their fields for the next crop.

New Delhi-based environmentalist, Vimlendu Jha, said: “Firecrackers have only spiked the situation and created a health emergency in Delhi and adjoining areas.

“It’s very unfortunate that we are living in COVID-19 times when respiratory stamina is of ultimate necessity and we know that air pollution affects that stamina, and we actually went ahead and burst crackers.”

Doctors in the capital region noted a rise in respiratory cases from Thursday evening.

Dr. Mayank Saxena, from Yatharth hospital on the outskirts of Delhi, told Arab News: “Since last night, I have admitted eight patients with crises due to increased respiratory issues with some needing oxygen as well.

“Some of the normal people with no history of respiratory problems are having complaints. No doubt the dip in air quality has caused significant health worries among people in the national capital region,” he said.

Ranjana Kumar, who lives in the Vikaspuri area of west Delhi, said she had experienced breathing difficulties.

“Despite the ban on firecrackers, people did not listen. As a result, we are all suffering. In the afternoon on Friday there was fog, and the pollution level was high. Delhi has become unlivable at this time of year, but people like us cannot escape this environment.”