Pollution

Delhi air turns ‘severe’ post Diwali, firecracker ban flouted

Doctor says influx of patients with breathing problems doubled compared to last Diwali

 
By Zumbish
Published: Monday 13 November 2023
Smog in Delhi at 9 am on November 12, Diwali day. Photo: RD__

The rain in Delhi on November 10, 2023 due to a western disturbance played a gamechanger for the air quality. While initial anticipations on the air quality index (AQI) reaching the ‘emergency’ zone by Diwali on November 12 did not hold true, the air quality on November 13 reached ‘severe’ category. 

The AQI report card was nowhere close to ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ categories on the festival of lights. Parts of Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) were blanketed by smog around 9 am on November 12, found ground visits by Down To Earth (DTE). Prior to this, the national capital had been gripped by the worst air quality episode in the country for eight days

The AQI levels in the capital were in the ‘moderate’ category late in the morning on November 12. However, it slipped to 218 in the ‘poor’ category at 4 pm. Interestingly, the air quality in Patna, Bihar was even worse at 336, in ‘very poor’ category. The AQI recorded at 5 am post-Diwali day worsened, reaching the at 437 or the ‘severe’ mark.

Air quality status on November 13

Source: CPCB

According to the AQI scale, a level of 1-50 is ‘good’, 51-100 is ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 is ‘moderate’, 201-300 is ‘poor’, 301-400 is ‘very poor’ and 401-500 is ‘severe’ category. An air quality of more than 501 is in an ‘emergency’ zone.

The nationwide blanket ban on firecrackers was boldly flouted in Delhi and the city echoed with the noise from crackers till the late hours. A resident of Sadar Bazaar in Old Delhi revealed that the popular wholesale market pretended to have accepted the Supreme Court ban on crackers, but the sales of fireworks carried out stealthily.

“Firecracker vendors only sell in very limited quantities. Only customers with thick ties to such sellers would know how and where to find it. I don’t think the ban is a success,” said the resident on November 12 on condition of anonymity. 

The ban was also not followed in other parts of the country. Mujib, a Lucknow-based businessman, said he had witnessed fear among cracker manufacturers and stringent regulations on their sale until Diwali morning.

“I spent the day of Diwali away from home and came back home to find even Lucknow residents like those in many parts of the country managed to burst enough crackers even this Diwali,” he said. 

On November 10, DTE found that the number of patients with bad coughs and aggravated asthma cases had decreased after the rain at primary healthcare centres or Mohalla Clinics in Vijay Nagar, North Delhi, and Lal Chowk, South Delhi. 

“There was an increase in visits by patients, mostly children and the elderly, with respiratory issue. After the rain, the air quality seems to improve and we witnessed an abrupt decrease in such patients’ visits on November 10,” said a staff member of a Mohalla Clinic. 

Another reason for the drop in numbers could be that many have returned to their hometowns and native villages by now.as the Diwali weekend approaching nearer, the staffer added.

Until November 10, Patel Chest Hospital witnessed at least 50 new cases of people developing ailments due to respiratory problems on daily basis, hospital staff told DTE

“There is an exponential increase in cases with breathing issues in Delhi-NCR, as seen among newborns and children up to 12 years since pre-October. The worst-affected are those in the age range of two to five years,” Sanjeev Bagai, paediatrician and paediatric nephrologist told DTE first on November 3. 

Bagai stated on November 13 that the influx of patients with asthma and cough conditions has doubled this Diwali compared to the same time last year.

DTE also contacted All India Institute of Medical Sciences Patna superintendent over any situation of patient influx through Diwali, but there was no comment. 

According to news reports citing the Delhi Fire Service, the festival day saw up to 100 calls related to fire incidents between 6 pm and 10.45 pm.

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