Air quality poor, but better than previous Diwalis


NEW DELHI : Air quality in the National Capital Region and much of India deteriorated on Tuesday, the morning after Diwali celebrations, but the air Indians breathed a day after the festival was still the cleanest in at least eight years, indicating some progress in the fight against firecrackers and pollution.

Delhi registered an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 323 on Tuesday morning, indicating very poor air, while in neighbouring Noida, the AQI plunged to 342, a level considered dangerous, especially for people with respiratory illnesses. Air quality improved to 303 and 299 by 4pm, respectively.

Pollution check

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Pollution check

Contrary to last year, only a handful of cities, including Delhi, reported air quality in the ‘very poor’ category. Several cities such as Lucknow, Jaipur, Chennai and Mumbai reported poor air quality, with AQI hovering within the range of 201 to 300. The people of Kolkata heaved a sigh of relief as a cyclonic storm helped lower the AQI to a safe 47.

While Diwali is celebrated across India with lights and a cacophony of fireworks, the toxic smoke from the firecrackers combined with prevailing weather conditions make the air unbreathable, sickening children, pregnant women and the elderly. Often, and especially so in Delhi and its suburbs, the illegal burning of crop stubble to clear the way for the next harvest makes air pollution even more pervasive.

“The AQI levels this year are comparatively lower compared with data of previous years around Diwali. Episodic events like firecrackers during Diwali and stubble burning are always a concern for us. However, for stubble burning, we have a comprehensive action plan that we have distributed to states,” said Arvind Nautiyal, member secretary at the Commission for Air Quality Management.

While the Central Pollution Control Board’s monitors showed particulate matter (PM) level was lower than last year, it was above the daily safe limits of 60 ug/m3. Similarly, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad also showed ‘poor’ air quality, which is likely to improve to ‘moderate’ for the next two days, showed SAFAR data. While the air quality was relatively better on average, the air in some neighbourhoods was worse than in others. Doctors in Delhi said they have been receiving lots of calls from patients complaining about breathing problems. Medical experts said people infected by covid or those having pre-existing respiratory illnesses are most at risk of severe pulmonary complications in the coming days if air quality remains poor.

“Today itself, we have had a lot of patients in the OPD complaining of chest tightness, breathlessness, cough and sneezing. This is because of high levels of pollutants in the air due to the bursting of firecrackers. In the coming days, smoke from stubble burning will again deteriorate the air quality in Delhi-NCR. So, people should continue to wear N-95 masks, which are best suited to combat the side effects of air pollution on days pollutant levels are at dangerous levels,” said Dr. Bobby Bhalotra at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills 7 million people annually. Nine out of 10 people breathe air that has been polluted by traffic emissions, industry, agriculture and waste incineration.

“The next 24-48 hours are very crucial for patients who are suffering from pre-existing lung diseases such as COPD (chronic inflammatory lung disease) and asthma because rising air pollution levels in Delhi can worsen their health condition. Such people need to be extra careful,” said Dr Vikas Maurya, head of the pulmonary department at Fortis Hospital in Delhi.

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