As the festive celebrations of Diwali came to an end, several major Indian cities woke up to a grim reality on Monday morning – hazardous air quality levels. New Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai found themselves among the top 10 cities in the world with alarming levels of pollution, following a night of firecracker revelry.
New Delhi’s Unenviable Top Spot
New Delhi, known for its persistent air pollution woes, unsurprisingly occupied the top position on the list of cities grappling with severe pollution. The city recorded an Air Quality Index (AQI) reading of 420, placing it firmly in the ‘hazardous’ category, as reported by the Swiss group IQAir.
However, New Delhi was not alone in this grim scenario. Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, secured the fourth spot on the list, with an AQI of 196, while Mumbai, the bustling financial hub, ranked eighth with an AQI of 163.
To put these figures into perspective, an AQI level of 400-500 poses a severe health risk to even healthy individuals and is extremely hazardous for those with pre-existing health conditions. An AQI level of 150-200 is considered harmful, causing discomfort to people with respiratory issues such as asthma and heart problems. In contrast, levels ranging from 0 to 50 are considered good air quality.
Diwali Celebrations Contribute to Pollution Surge
The hazardous air quality levels in these cities can be attributed to the exuberant Diwali celebrations, where fireworks are an integral part of the festivities. Every year, authorities impose bans on firecrackers in the capital and other major cities to curb pollution levels, but enforcement of these bans often remains lax.
The aftermath of Diwali usually results in a significant deterioration of air quality across India. This decline occurs in the lead-up to winter, when cold air traps pollutants stemming from various sources, including vehicular emissions, industrial activities, construction dust, and the burning of agricultural waste.
Authorities Grapple With Enforcement and Response
Despite these recurring challenges, authorities in New Delhi and other affected regions have struggled to enforce strict measures to combat pollution effectively. Earlier, in response to alarming air quality levels, New Delhi authorities had considered restricting vehicular use, but this decision was postponed after a brief spell of rain provided temporary relief from a week-long exposure to toxic air.
Local governments have been grappling with the delicate balance of addressing pollution concerns while ensuring the safety and happiness of their citizens during the festive season. In the case of New Delhi, authorities plan to review the decision to restrict vehicle usage after the Diwali celebrations conclude.
The persistent air pollution crisis in India underscores the urgent need for comprehensive and sustained efforts to combat the problem. With each passing year, the health and well-being of residents in major cities are put at risk, highlighting the imperative of addressing this environmental challenge on a priority basis. As the festive season gives way to winter, the battle for cleaner air in India continues, with hopes that stricter enforcement of pollution control measures and public awareness will ultimately lead to a healthier and safer environment for all.