Firework smog chokes Delhi as India celebrates Diwali

Delhi air pollution

Air pollution in New Delhi hit hazardous levels Thursday after a night of free-for-all Diwali fireworks, despite Supreme Court efforts to curb the smog-fuelling partying. The AQI was 281 at 7 pm.

The Supreme Court had allowed bursting of crackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that only environmentally friendly crackers - that emit less smoke and soot - can be sold in Delhi, in a bid to cut the smog that has scarred the city's global reputation.

The court said the police should ensure that there was no sale of banned firecrackers and in case of any violation, the Station House Officer (SHO) of the police station of the area would be held personally liable and this would amount to committing contempt of the court. The AQI in Anand Vihar was 585, 343 in RK Puram and 467 in the area around the US Embassy.

But despite the order, certain places recorded violations where firecrackers were burnt before and after the set time frame.

The police have promised appropriate action.

The online indicators of the pollution monitoring stations indicated "poor" and "very poor" air quality as the volume of ultra-fine particulates PM2.5 and PM10, which enter the respiratory system and reach the bloodstream, sharply rose from around 8 pm. A "severe plus emergency" level AQI essentially means that even healthy people may suffer from respiratory illnesses on prolonged exposure.

Experts believe that not only the burning of crackers has been responsible for the deteriorating air quality but replacement of moderate winds with light and calm winds, low temperatures, increased humidity levels are also contributing in increasing the toxicity in the air by a considerable figure.

After a slight improvement on Diwali, Delhi's pollution level skyrockets to "severe" levels on Thursday midnight.

Sharma said Friday the AAP government has "failed" to take measures needed to address the problem of air pollution which was reflected in "low-grade" allegations on him by AAP leaders.

For a second successive year, New Delhi's chief minister has likened the city to a "gas chamber". Last year, he declared a public health crisis, shut schools for a week and told residents to remain indoors.

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