Diwali Woes – Delhi And NCR Air Quality Threatens To Touch “Severe”, Officials Aim For “Very Poor”

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The state-owned air pollution control agency SAFAR (System of Air quality Forecasting And Research) has warned the government that pollution levels in New Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) could possibly spike back up after the Diwali festival is over. Last Monday, New Delhi witnessed the worst air quality of this season, which prompted an analysis and subsequently, this warning. Researchers at SAFAR have also explained that the air quality could possibly improve (even if it is a marginal improvement) during 7th November to 8th November, only if Delhi is able to avoid any additional firework-based emissions.

“Even if 50% of the total load of toxic fire crackers as compared to Diwali last year is added, the prevailing weather conditions would aggravate the high smoke level and make air quality to persist in ‘severe’ category for at least two days (8 and 9 November). Surface winds would remain north-westerly, with a speed ranging from 5kmph to 15kmph. However, as the wind speed is sufficiently high, the pollutants are likely to cross Delhi without descending and as the lifetime of PM2.5 is short, it will diminish prematurely.” – SAFAR Report on NCR Pollution

Earlier, administrative officials in Delhi had alleged that the practice of stubble burning in Punjab was contributing to the national capital’s deteriorating AQI (Air Quality Index). However, the current report states that the contribution of stubble-burning to air pollution in Delhi has actually decreased from 33% to 9% due to increasing wind speed. The report also predicts that this contribution is likely to decline further.

Monday’s AQI pegged Delhi at 434 – which is considered to be a ‘severe’ level. This improved marginally to 338 on Tuesday, which is still in the ‘very poor’ category. Meanwhile, air quality indices at Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurugram continued to be in the ‘very poor’ category zone, averaging at 350, 334, 351, and 309 respectively. Officials from the meteorological (weather) department have not given any indications to suggest a drop in temperatures. Instead, there is a possibility of firework-emitted smoke to get trapped, forcing the levels of particulate emission to be higher in the morning, elevating the category to ‘severe’ once again.

The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune also offered its expertise, explaining that the highest levels of PM10 and PM2.5 are expected between 11 PM and 3 AM in the night of transition between 7th November and 8th November. If the amount of fireworks does not go up by extreme numbers, the AQI will continue to stay in the “very poor” zone and will not necessarily escalate back to “severe”.

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