Delhi chokes on toxic haze despite Diwali fireworks ban (Update)

October 20, 2017

New Delhi was shrouded in a thick toxic haze Friday after a night of frenzied Diwali fireworks sent the air quality plummeting despite a ban on their sale aimed at thwarting a repeat of last year's 'airpocalypse'.

India's Supreme Court had banned the sale of firecrackers ahead of the Hindu festival of lights to prevent a repeat of last year's post-Diwali air pollution crises that left Delhi's 20 million residents gasping for weeks.

But late Thursday the readings for PM10 pollutants hovered around 1,100 microgram per cubic metre in some parts of the city—11 times above the prescribed air quality levels of World Health Organisation.

PM10 particles measure less than 10 microns or 10 millionths of a metre—several times thinner than a human hair.

Air quality data from the state-run Delhi Pollution Control Committee showed pollution levels in a crowded neighbourhood hit 1,179 around midnight as firework displays reached a crescendo.

Residents of Delhi, rated the most polluted city by WHO in 2014, showed little consideration for the ban, purchasing crackers illegally or using those bought earlier.

The levels had subsided through the night but were still "severe" in several districts across the capital Friday afternoon.

India's Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi said he was pained by Delhi's nonchalant attitude.

"Delhiites continue to choke on pollution. It is a reflection of our dismissive & disrespectful attitude towards society, law & justice. When will we learn," he wrote on Twitter.

Delhi's woes

The spike in levels came on a day when a report in the Lancet medical journal said pollution had claimed as many as 2.5 million lives in India in 2015, the highest in the world.

Globally the number of deaths due to environmental pollution stood at nine million - three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, the study said.

Delhi's air quality typically worsens at the onset of winter, due to pollution from diesel engines, coal-fired power plants, industrial emissions and atmospheric dust.

Levels of PM2.5—the finer particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease—have soared since the beginning of this month when millions of farmers in the city's north burn post-harvest crop residue.

The court on October 9 had banned sale of firecrackers across the city in anticipation of last year's catastrophic levels of pollution. But it did not put any restrictions on the bursting of fireworks.

Last year's Diwali festivities took pollution levels to a record high—the worst in nearly two decades—forcing the government to shut schools and close down a coal-fired power plant.

On Tuesday an environmental watchdog ordered the shutting down of all diesel generators and the city's lone coal-fired power plant as part of a slew of measures to curb pollution.

Experts however say the air quality will remain considerably cleaner this year, thanks to a favourable wind system.

"The wind system will not allow stagnation of smoke over the city. We will have better air this time," said Gufran Beig, chief scientist at India's state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research.

Explore further: New Delhi shuts power plant in fight against Diwali smog

Related Stories

New Delhi shuts power plant in fight against Diwali smog

October 18, 2017

India's environmental watchdog shut down a coal-fired power plant and banned the use of diesel generators in New Delhi as air quality plummeted in the world's most polluted capital on Wednesday, the start of the Diwali festival.

Delhi braces for pollution 'airpocalypse' as smog looms

October 19, 2017

As Hindus across India celebrate Diwali this week, scientists fear a ban on firecrackers and other emergency anti-pollution measures deployed by authorities may not be enough to prevent a repeat of last year's "airpocalypse" ...

Delhi chokes on toxic smog after Diwali festival

October 31, 2016

New Delhi was shrouded in a thick blanket of toxic smog Monday after millions of Indians lit firecrackers to mark the Diwali festival, with authorities reporting record levels of pollution in parts of the capital.

Recommended for you

Asteroids, hydrogen make great recipe for life on Mars

March 26, 2019

A new study reveals asteroid impacts on ancient Mars could have produced key ingredients for life if the Martian atmosphere was rich in hydrogen. An early hydrogen-rich atmosphere on Mars could also explain how the planet ...

Cool Earth theory sheds more light on diamonds

March 26, 2019

A QUT geologist has published a new theory on the thermal evolution of Earth billions of years ago that explains why diamonds have formed as precious gemstones rather than just lumps of common graphite.

New cellulose-based material represents three sensors in one

March 26, 2019

Cellulose soaked in a carefully designed polymer mixture acts as a sensor to measure pressure, temperature and humidity at the same time. The measurements are completely independent of each other. The ability to measure pressure, ...

Physicists discover new class of pentaquarks

March 26, 2019

Tomasz Skwarnicki, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, has uncovered new information about a class of particles called pentaquarks. His findings could lead to a new understanding ...

Study finds people who feed birds impact conservation

March 26, 2019

People in many parts of the world feed birds in their backyards, often due to a desire to help wildlife or to connect with nature. In the United States alone, over 57 million households in the feed backyard birds, spending ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.