Asia Minute: Urgent Air Quality Issues on Diwali

Delhi-NCR To Observe'Clean Air Week From November 1-5

On Wednesday, PM2.5 (particles in the air with a diameter of lesser than 2.5 micrometres) level was recorded at 134, while PM10 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres) level was recorded at 276 in Delhi.

Delhi Police spokesman Madhur Verma said data was not immediately available at how many places the police took action against those flouting the Supreme Court directive on Diwali day.

It also said that the combination of several rapidly changing weather parameters is playing a key role in controlling air pollution at this time.

The sudden deterioration, as forecast last week, was due to a change in the wind direction, from easterly to the north-westerly, that has brought smoke arising from stubble burning, and Delhi's moist air trapping local and invading pollutants.

The PM2.5 levels across 47 areas of NCR were 208 units.

"The air quality may turn to "Severe Plus Emergency" category on Thursday possibly because of bursting of firecrackers today in view of the Diwali festival", an official said. Air quality will be "bad" on Thursday, 8 November - a day after Diwali - even if "partial toxic crackers" are used as compared to a year ago, SAFAR said.

Two cases were registered in outer Delhi and one case was registered in southwest Delhi.

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The level of PM2.5 pollutants in the air in South Delhi's Okhla area was 644, or 20 times the World Health Organization's declared safe level.

The AQI in Delhi on Tuesday morning was marginally above 400.

The smog drastically reduced visibility on Delhi roads.

Pollution levels in the National Capital Region (NCR) could spike after Diwali and fall back in the "severe" category because of fireworks, according to a report by the centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). Furthermore, AQI near Pitampura, Airport, Terminal 3 and Delhi University stood at 346, 353 and 365, respectively.

Warning that the Diwali day is expected to be polluted, weather analysts say that while now the polluting north-westerly winds are blowing higher at 5,000 meters, bringing a temporary relif to the region, the particles will start settling down, adding to pollution on Diwali.

Emergency measures such as banning construction, cutting down traffic and prohibiting the use of diesel generators have had little effect. "Senior citizens, infants, and people who already have lung, heart and other illnesses (such as diabetes) are most vulnerable to the "very poor" air quality", read SAFAR's precautionary statement on Wednesday for Mumbai.

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