Ban not enforced, Delhi air worst in four years

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 15

The ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the sale and bursting of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR) went up in smoke on Diwali with pollution levels soaring to a four-year high.

The air quality in Delhi and its surrounding areas dropped to “severe” category as pollutants exacerbated the already grim Covid-19 situation. The air quality index (AQI) for PM 2.5 pollutants on Sunday ranged between 460 and 500 across New Delhi as it posted the highest daily new Covid infections of 7,340.

The AQI from 101 to 200 is considered moderate, 201 to 300 poor, 301 to 400 very poor and 401 to 500 severe.

As Delhi defied the firecracker ban, average 24-hour AQI recorded on Diwali day was 414 — the worst in four years. In 2019, the 24-hour average AQI was 337 on Diwali as against 281 in 2018 and 319 in 2017. The neighbouring cities were no different as revellers violated the NGT order prohibiting the sale and bursting of firecrackers in the NCR. The order was meant as a drastic measure to check pollution, which is further fuelling Covid complications.

Gurugram recorded an AQI of 424, followed by Noida (466), Ghaziabad (483), Faridabad (438) and Greater Noida (439) — all in severe pollution category as the NCR woke up to a thick blanket of smog.

Weather experts said the Sunday showers would lower the air pollution levels with winds likely to change course to south-east, thus reducing the impact of pollutants on account of farm fires in the neighbouring states.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ pollution forecasting platform, SAFAR, said Delhi’s AQI around Diwali would be much better than previous four years, if the NGT ban worked.

But the ban was flouted, as were the 2019 Supreme Court directions curbing the use of firecrackers.

Following an order of the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Science had launched an initiative to produce green firecrackers with the involvement of industry, but such eco-friendly firecrackers were hardly used.

FIRs lodged against violators in Haryana

Chandigarh: The police lodged several FIRs against those violating Diwali firecracker ban in Haryana on Saturday even as the air quality index (AQI) deteriorated from “very poor” to “severe” in a majority of the districts in the state. In Faridabad, which recorded an AQI of 438, the police booked three men on the charge of violating the ban on the sale of crackers. The Panipat police registered eight cases in connection with the sale of firecrackers. In Yamunanagar and Ambala, 16 cases were lodged for allegedly sale and use of crackers.

Punjab AQI dips from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’

Patiala: Despite a ban on traditional crackers, a majority of cities in Punjab witnessed a drastic increase in air pollution levels on Diwali, with the air quality deteriorating to “very poor” category compared to “poor” last year. A layer of haze and smog was visible in many cities and villages as the two-hour window for bursting of crackers went up for a toss. Crackers were burst till wee hours in most cities. According to the Punjab Pollution Control Board, the state’s average air quality index for Punjab in 2019 was recorded at 293 (“poor”), which dipped to 328 (“very poor”) on Saturday night.

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