Delhi gasps for air as pollution gets ‘severe’

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Each year, smoke from festival firecrackers significantly adds to pollution levels in Delhi and its satellite cities, resulting a haze that can linger for days as wind speeds drop in the cooler weather.

The Supreme Court had earlier allowed bursting of firecrackers from 8pm to 10pm only on Diwali in the Delhi-NCR and the sale of "green crackers" by the licensed vendors but the ruling was smoked up in the air by the Delhiites. Similarly, air pollution levels, at 305ìg/m3, were also slightly less than last year's 366 ìg/m3, but it still fell in the "severe" category.

The national capital recorded its worst air quality of the year today with the overall index rising to 574, which falls in the "severe-plus emergency" category, according to data by the centre-run SAFAR. While the time limit was flouted at many places, police were cracking down on revellers who were bursting crackers beyond the allotted time. Air pollution worsens in winter anyway, with the burning of crop residue in nearby rural areas, and the use of diesel generators among the factors at play. To make matters worse, bonfires were made out of fire cracker boxes, sending black smoke rising.

The air quality in Delhi continues to be adverse. Armed with decibel meters and air quality measurement devices, volunteers scrambled as people rushed to burst crackers, many even wearing masks.

While other cities across north India recorded AQI scores of between 300 and 350, the air was significantly better in central and southern cities - with with the air in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, deemed "satisfactory" with a AQI score of only 64.

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A thick cloud of toxic smog almost 10 times the recommended limit continued to envelop Delhi on Friday as the air quality deteriorated and was. recorded under "hazardous" category.

The capital's pollution hit emergency levels on Thursday, according to the United States embassy.

"The Supreme Court order on fireworks was not followed and health warnings from the government were limited to few newspapers and some websites", said Greenpeace campaigner Sunil Dahiya.

Similarly, the PM10 level was recorded at 440 micrograms per cubic metre, making it four times the standard of 100. But this year, the levels of the lead pollutant - PM 2.5 or fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns that can penetrate the lungs and the bloodstream - were considerably less than the high levels registered in 2016.

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