An Indian woman lights sparklers during Diwali celebrations near New Delhi, India, 12 November 2023. EFE-EPA/HARISH TYAGI

Post-Diwali pollution plunges Indian capital into ‘hazardous’ air quality crisis

New Delhi, Nov 13 (EFE).- The air quality in the Indian capital dropped to a “hazardous” level on Monday morning, following a brief relief during the Hindu festival of Diwali, with the customary overnight bursting of firecrackers significantly escalating pollution levels.

People drive as city is engulfed in heavy smog near New Delhi, India, 09 November 2023. EFE-EPA/HARISH TYAGI

The city and its neighboring towns of Noida, Gurugram, and Ghaziabad awoke to a dense, hazardous fog, reminiscent of the aftermath of Diwali firecrackers, despite restrictions imposed on extravagant pyrotechnic displays during the celebrations.

Measurements from the city’s air quality monitoring stations showed PM 2.5 particle levels exceeding 400 micrograms per cubic meter of air, posing a considerable health risk to the capital’s residents.

The figure is way above the limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The US Environmental Protection Agency says an AQI above 50 poses health risks.

The air quality index in the western part of the capital surged to nearly 450, while other areas recorded levels well over 400.

The PM 2.5 levels, surpassing 300, are deemed hazardous, prompting a health alert due to potential “serious health effects.” Experts advise avoiding any outdoor exertion.

Although Monday’s data reflect an improvement compared to previous years immediately after Diwali, when air quality monitors maxed out at 999 particles per cubic meter due to firecracker bursts, this year’s peak AQI value touched 1,117 around midnight, with over 600 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter in various locations.

Despite the Supreme Court’s longstanding ban on bursting firecrackers due to their pollution, loud explosions were heard well into the night. This contributed to an alarming AQI value and heightened PM 2.5 levels.

However, firecrackers aren’t the sole contributor to the problem. The city’s toxic air is a mix of vehicle emissions, construction dust, particles from burning agricultural waste, and the constant burning of solid waste in a city housing over 20 million people.

To address the persistent pollution plaguing New Delhi for weeks, authorities halted non-essential construction work on Nov.2 and restricted the entry of diesel trucks into the capital until further notice. All schools were also closed until Nov.18. EFE