Delhi, the national capital of India, has been grappling with the issue of Delhi air pollution for many years now. Its poor air quality, especially in the winter months, is an annual concern. This year again, Delhi air pollution levels spiked to hazardous levels after Diwali celebrations, as firecrackers burst by people added to the existing pollutants.
The morning after Diwali saw Delhi enveloped under a thick layer of smog, with visibility reduced significantly. Pictures of landmarks like India Gate and Lotus Temple shrouded in haze were widely shared on social media. This article examines the surge in Delhi air pollution post Diwali, its effects on citizens, and discusses the long-term solutions needed to address this issue.
Delhi Air Quality After Diwali 2022
Despite a complete ban on firecrackers by the Delhi government this year, the air pollution levels in the national capital increased sharply after Diwali night as people violated the rules.
The Air Quality Index (AQI), which measures the level of pollutants, crossed the hazardous 500-mark in several areas across Delhi on the morning after Diwali.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the average AQI in Delhi post Diwali stood at 462. This is more than four times the safe limit, which is under 100.
An AQI above 400 is considered ‘severe’ and can affect even healthy people, causing respiratory illnesses with prolonged exposure. For people already suffering from lung or heart conditions, the high Delhi air pollution post Diwali proved detrimental.
The concentration of PM 2.5, which refers to fine particulate matter in the air, was several times above the safe limit. High levels of PM 2.5 can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, and other ailments if inhaled repeatedly.
Delhi Air Pollution After Diwali Over the Years
Even though Delhi saw its lowest pollution levels post Diwali since 2017 this year, the AQI still breached the emergency levels due to citizens violating the cracker ban in large numbers.
According to pollution monitoring agencies, the PM 2.5 concentration recorded this Diwali was the second-highest in five years. This shows more work needs to be done to sensitize citizens and strictly enforce bans on polluting activities.
Impact of Diwali Firecrackers on Delhi Air Pollution Quality
The primary reason behind the spike in Delhi air pollution after Diwali this year was the bursting of firecrackers on a mass level despite an imposed ban.
According to pollution control authorities, the smoke from firecrackers significantly increased the PM 2.5 levels in Delhi’s air, causing the AQI to cross 500.
While Delhi authorities had announced a total ban on firecrackers this Diwali along with heavy fines, violations were rampant across Delhi-NCR. The sounds of crackers could be heard late into the night in many neighborhoods.
Strict action on the sale of firecrackers and public awareness campaigns against their use had led to expectations that this year would be less polluting compared to previous years. However, weak enforcement of bans and lackadaisical attitude by citizens contributed to the hazardous pollution spike.
Impact on Health and Visibility
The dangerous rise in Delhi air pollution post Diwali had adverse effects on the health and visibility for people in the city.
Exposure to high PM 2.5 levels and noxious gases released by firecrackers can cause throat irritation, wheezing, coughing, and breathing difficulties as per experts. Cases of irritation in the eyes, allergy and asthma attacks also rise.
Doctors warned that vulnerable groups like the elderly, children and those already suffering from respiratory issues need to take extra precautions in such poor air by avoiding outdoor activities and wearing masks.
The smog reduced visibility on roads and affected air traffic. Flight operations were hit with delays as takeoffs and landings became difficult in the heavy smog-cover. Cars and commuters had to navigate carefully due to poor visibility.
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Public Outrage Over Delhi’s Air Quality
Pictures and selfies shared by Delhi residents with landmarks blurred out due to smog sparked outrage on social media over the city’s poor air.
Many criticized the Delhi government over its failure to control pollution and enforce the cracker ban despite numerous measures. Others blamed the public for ignoring government advisories and bursting firecrackers irresponsibly.
Environmentalists pointed out that Delhi’s air quality had deteriorated to emergency levels due to the callous attitude of authorities and citizens despite warnings. They said long term policy changes are needed to prevent this annual public health crisis.
Measures Taken to Control Post-Diwali Delhi Pollution
As the Delhi air pollution reached dangerous levels after Diwali, the Delhi government had to take emergency measures:
- Construction activities were banned till November 17th.
- Entry of diesel trucks into Delhi was barred, except for essential supplies.
- A 9-day campaign was launched to control pollution from local sources.
- Water sprinkling, mechanized sweeping of roads and tree plantation drives were undertaken by civic agencies.
However, experts said these short-term measures have limited impact on reducing emissions. Stringent action is required throughout the year against pollution sources to ensure good air for citizens.
Long Term Solutions for Delhi’s Air Pollution Problem
While the Diwali pollution spike was caused directly by firecrackers, it highlighted the need for long term solutions to fix Delhi’s air quality woes.
According to pollution analysts, year-long steps have to be taken to cut emissions from various sources such as:
- Vehicular pollution: Promoting electric vehicles, improving fuel quality, stringent emission norms for automobiles.
- Industrial pollution: Switching to clean fuel, installing treatment filters, shifting hazardous industries outside Delhi.
- Construction activities: Masking buildings, checking road dust and debris.
- Waste management: Better disposal of garbage and crop stubble rather than burning.
- Green cover: Increasing tree cover across Delhi which acts as a pollution sink.
Citizens also have to cooperate by using public transport, avoiding waste burning, following dust control norms and bursting less crackers during festivals.
The annual public health crisis due to Delhi air pollution around Diwali highlights the need for a year-long action plan and public participation to improve air quality.
While the Delhi government has started taking steps like banning firecrackers and mandating EV adoption, much more needs to be done to tackle vehicular, industrial and dust pollution.
Citizens also have to do their bit by avoiding polluting activities and adopting environment-friendly practices. Only then can Delhi move towards breathable air that does not endanger its citizens.
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