Diwali amid COVID-19: Delhi air quality deteriorates as evening progresses

It could hit emergency levels if there is increased emission from firecrackers

By Shagun
Published: Saturday 14 November 2020
Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

The air quality in Delhi deteriorated to the ‘severe’ category on the evening of November 14, 2020 and could even hit emergency levels in case there were increased emissions from fireworks.

On the morning of November 14, the air quality was in the ‘very poor’ category but started deteriorating thereafter.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) at 10 am was 369, according to data provided by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The value reached 378 at 12 pm, 385 at 1 pm, 396 at 2 pm and 405 at 3 pm.

The average AQI of the last 24 hours recorded by CPCB was 414. It was 339 November 13.

An AQI of 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’, and 401-500 ‘severe’. Above 500 is the ‘severe-plus or emergency’ category.

The situation in the neighbouring towns of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan was also deteriorating. The air quality in towns like Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Gurugram, Faridabad, Fatehabad and Bhiwadi was either ‘very poor’ or ‘severe’.

Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are also among the 10 states that have reported most of the new novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. Several researchers and experts have warned that air pollution increases susceptibility to COVID-19.

Thus, any deterioration in air quality could lead to a further increase in cases and deaths due to the virus and put more stress on the already stressed health infrastructure.

Even in a scenario of zero fire cracker emission, the air quality is likely to remain in the ‘Severe’ category, according to a forecast by SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), a body under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) last week ordered a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers in Delhi and the National Capital Region, along with all towns and cities where air quality was ‘poor’ or worse from November 9-30. Despite that, people are bursting firecrackers.

The concentration of harmful pollutants like particulate matter (PM)2.5 and PM10 has also increased since the morning of November 13.

While PM2.5 and PM10 were recorded at 210 and 345 microgramme per cubic metre (μg / m3) respectively at 10 am, the concentration increased to 230 and 360 μg / m3 by 11 am.

It subsequently rose to 271 and 408 μg / m3 respectively by 4 pm. These values are four times more than the safe standards of 60 and 100 μg / m3.

PM2.5 or particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 microgramme, just three per cent the diameter of a human hair — are one of the deadliest pollutants. These tiny particles penetrate deep into the lungs, bypassing the body’s natural defences and enter the bloodstream, causing lung disease, cancer, strokes and heart attacks. These particles can stay in the air for weeks.

The share of stubble burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 was also high at 32 per cent November 14.

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