Delhi woke up to a hazardous air quality index (AQI) of 514 on Monday, following the Diwali celebrations. This surpasses the “hazardous” mark of 320 on the air quality index, as classified by the Swiss group IQAir. This has led to Delhi being ranked as the most polluted city in the world on Monday.
By 8 pm on the day following Diwali, Delhi-NCR experienced a surge in pollution levels, surpassing 400 on the air quality index (AQI), making breathing challenging. The overall AQI in Delhi reached 435 at 8 pm, compared to 358 at 4 pm and 279 on November 10, 2023.
The excessive burning of firecrackers on Diwali significantly impacted air quality on the night of November 12, with AQI exceeding the maximum level in various Delhi areas. Although air quality improved post-firecracker cessation, it deteriorated again after 7 am. Despite low traffic due to institutional holidays, areas with increased vehicular activity experienced hazardous air conditions. Despite a firecracker ban, a substantial number were still ignited on Diwali and November 13.
Delhi’s Anand Vihar trended on Twitter in the afternoon, reflecting persistently poor AQI throughout the day.
Pre-Diwali rain provided some relief, but most of Delhi-NCR still exhibited ‘poor’ air quality, implying health risks. Data from the Central Pollution Control Board released after 11:00 pm on November 11 indicated varying AQI levels in different Delhi-NCR regions on November 13 at 8 pm.
The AQI shows air pollution levels: 0-50 is clean air, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 signifies moderate pollution, and 201-300 means poor air quality. 301-400 indicates very poor air quality with potential for serious health effects, and 401-500, a critical situation, can harm even healthy people and be lethal for those with prior health problems.
Delhi’s air quality deteriorates post-Diwali
Anand Vihar reported the highest level of air pollution, with the AQI reaching a staggering 969 at 5 am, according to aqicn.org. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recorded an average AQI of 289 at Anand Vihar at 5 am, with PM2.5 levels surging to touch the 500-mark.
RK Puram registered an AQI of 281 at the same time, with PM2.5 being the primary pollutant reaching the 500-mark. The PM2.5 concentration in the city has been measured at 20 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
In response to the alarming pollution levels, the city government has mandated the closure of all primary classes and restricted truck entry.
The neighboring cities of Noida and Gurugram also reported poor air quality. The AQI in Noida clocked at 269 (poor) at sector-62, with PM2.5 levels touching the 500-mark. In Gurugram, the overall AQI was 329 (very poor), while PM2.5 levels were nearly 500.
Between November 2 and November 9, 2023, Delhi experienced its longest and most severe stretch of air pollution, with the AQI above 390 for a record eight consecutive days. The AQI is expected to remain in the ‘severe’ to ‘very poor’ category for the six days after November 14.
Surging air pollution levels
In light of the surging air pollution levels, the Delhi health department has released an advisory underscoring the importance of taking essential measures to safeguard public health. The advisory focuses on vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, individuals with underlying medical conditions, children, and the older people.
To curb pollution and ensure adherence to anti-pollution measures, police are inspecting trucks carrying non-essential goods at different borders including the Ghazipur and the Tikri borders, as part of the GRAP 4 regulations. Under Delhi’s air pollution control strategy (GRAP Stage IV), only CNG, electric, and BS VI-compliant vehicles from other states are permitted to enter the city, excluding those involved in essential services.
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