The national capital and its adjoining areas of Gurugram, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad woke up early November morning to a layer of Black Fog, commonly known as ‘Smog’. The environment was so full of black carbon that it’s residents could hardly breathe.
As a regular prevention, many decided not to step out of their homes, however, the extent of smog reached a level that it could be felt coming inside the houses of some of the residents too.
For the past few days, light northwesterly winds from Punjab and Haryana have been blowing during the afternoon hours. This has been one of the main reasons for bringing in the pollutants caused by stubble that are burnt in the states of Punjab and Haryana. As the speeds of winds were reportedly less, these pollutants have settled in the lower levels of the atmosphere.
A high level of moisture in the air has trapped dust particles resulting in an atmosphere clouded with a thick layer of smog. Such a prolonged exposure to pollution causing particles can lead to various respiratory and heart diseases. Children and elders are the worst affected. Some schools are also on the verge of declaring holiday for some days until the hazard settles below certain level.
While the Supreme Court ban on crackers only managed to contain the spread of pollutants, available data shows that the peak levels of pollutants in Delhi on Diwali night were lower than the previous year, nonetheless, still breached the emergency point.
The Supreme Court ban on sale of firecrackers had turned controversial with a communal colour, some with a purpose defied the same. While officially crackers were not sold in Delhi following the ban imposed by the apex court on October 9, a flourishing black market ensured the steady supply of combustible products. The same was justified that the court order was not against bursting of crackers.
Spike in pollution
Analyses by several organisations such as The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) show that the pollution in the city, which was already at unhealthy levels before Diwali, had escalated to hazardous levels in certain pockets of the city and neighbouring areas.
However, the peak levels were lower than last year. According to air quality data collated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the PM 2.5 level hit a maximum of 422 µg/m3. Last year it had soared to 883 µg/m3.
The maximum average figures, however, remained the same at 440 µg/m3, according to data provided by the Delhi government, even as the minimum pollution levels were slightly low at 154 µg/m3, down from 180 µg/m3 last year Diwali.
The levels of most pollutants — carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, PM10, and PM2.5 — were, however, lower than those recorded last year, despite being at the ‘hazardous’ point.
A shopkeeper and resident of Delhi was reportedly heard saying, that he had a small stock of crackers from the previous year but if people knew the shopkeepers they could get access in this season too. He further mentioned that he had procured some for his children a few days before Diwali. One of his neighbours, however said, that he had bought some from Muradabad, where his family stays.
A wholesale shop owner in Chandni Chowk stated that he hadn’t been able to sell even a single cracker in the past 12 days then. He had criticised the SC ban and said that most of our sales in the season happen around this period.
Whether the pollution curb can be emphasized by law or with stringent actions by government or by reforming certain decisions is only a matter of time. However, it is certain that the same cannot be achieved unless there is full co-operation by the residents, without flouting norms.
The only beneficiaries of this hazardous and alarming situation are the air purifying companies which are making the most of it.