Delhi recorded its worst air quality of the year the morning after Diwali as the pollution level entered 'severe-plus emergency' category due to rampant bursting of firecrackers, authorities said.
The overall air quality index jumped to 574, which falls in the 'severe-plus emergency' category, according to data by the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
The sharp spike in pollution is caused by rampant use of firecrackers that has led to the formation of a smoky layer across the Capital and drastically reduced visibility, the authorities said.
SAFAR had warned that even if partial toxic firecrackers as compare to last year were burnt, the air quality would fall in the severe category. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'. Above 500 is 'severe-plus emergency' category.
The Delhi Air Quality Index stood at around 574 at present. Air Quality Index entered in severe category at 2 AM after midnight on Thursday and will continue to remain in severe category until evening, a senior official said.
A 'severe plus emergency' air quality index (AQI) essentially means that even healthy people may suffer from respiratory illnesses on a prolonged exposure to such air. This air will seriously affect those with ailments, according to the advisory issued by SAFAR.
Air Quality Index (AQI) data shows major pollutant PM 2.5 and PM 10 are at 500 (severe) in Lodhi Road area. Delhi's Anand Vihar and area around Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium recorded 999, area around US Embassy at Chanakyapuri 459—all 'Hazardous' levels.
The US embassy said PM 2.5 levels in its part of central Delhi had soared to 689, indicating emergency conditions, posing a serious health risk.
Last month, the Supreme Court allowed 'green' firecrackers for Diwali, but only for two hours in the evening. However, there were no such fireworks available and countless fireworks were let off through the evening.
A senior government official said the city was heading into a 'deadly cocktail' of pollution due to fireworks around Diwali and crop residue burning by farmers.
'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.
The apparent lack of concern about the toxic air—whether through ignorance or apathy—gives politicians the cover they need for failing to address the problem, say environmental activists and others.
In recent weeks, Delhi doctors have reported an increase in patients with respiratory problems.
More gentle winds and cool air, which can trap pollution, exacerbate the problem.
The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at 302 at 11 pm, which fell in the very poor category, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The air quality started deteriorating rapidly from 7 pm. The AQI was 281 at 7 pm. It rose to 291 at 8 pm and further deteriorated to 294 at 9 pm and 296 at 10 pm, according to the CPCB. The Supreme Court had allowed bursting of firecrackers from 8 pm to 10 pm only and it had also allowed manufacture and sale of only 'green crackers', which have a low light and sound emission and less harmful chemicals.
But despite the apex court order, there were reports of its violation from many areas long after 10 pm. Several areas showed a spike in the air pollution. Areas like ITO and Jahangirpuri recorded very high pollution levels.
Violations of the Supreme Court order were reported from Mayur Vihar Extension, Lajpat Nagar, Lutyens' Delhi, IP extension, Dwarka, and Noida Sector 78, among other places.
The SAFAR forecast 'bad' air quality on Thursday even though partially toxic crackers were burst as compared to 2017. The situation was similar, if not worse, in the neighbouring areas, as Gurugram, Noida and Ghaziabad, where crackers were burst as usual.
As many as 209 calls were received by the Delhi Fire Services on Diwali, including one related to a huge fire in a factory at Bawana, officials said.