The air quality in Delhi deteriorates to hazardous levels numerous times a year. The worst time to be in the city, however, are the days following Diwali. Because of all the firecrackers that are burst during Diwali, the weeks following the festive season record the worst air quality in the entire year. Add to this the burning of crops in Punjab and Haryana and pollution and smog loom over the city streets for weeks. Typically, an AQI (air quality index) of 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 is moderate, 101-150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups, 151-200 and 201-300 is unhealthy and very unhealthy respectively. 301-500 is considered hazardous and anything beyond 500 is an emergency situation.
The AQI in cities like Mumbai and Kolkatta this year was under 200, the lowest it has been in the last five years. The air quality in Delhi (although still pretty bad) is the best it has been since 2015. According to figures released by the Central Pollution Control Board, the overall 24-hour average released on Monday at 4 pm was approximately 368. While this would still be classified in the hazardous AQI category, it is still better when compared to past-records of the national capital region. The air quality in Delhi quickly took an ugly turn after Diwali though. According to a report by SAFAR (System Of Air Quality Forecasting and Research), the real-time AQI figure after 12 pm on Monday was at an alarming 506. Falling under the emergency category, the AQI is especially threating for anyone with respiratory problems.
The SAFAR report suggested that "the overall air quality of Delhi is in the ‘severe’ category today as forecast. Though the PM2.5 concentrations peaked around midnight (1am), the concentrations were much less than that of the last three years." The report also advised people with respiratory problems and heart diseases to stay indoors.
In 2018, the AQI after Diwali was 390. The AQI in 2016 and 2017 was 445 and 400+ respectively. While that certainly seems like a drastic improvement, the national capital still has a long way to go.
The improvement in the AQI this year is probably owing to the fact that people have finally realized the harmful effects of crackers and largely thanks to the two-hour set limit on burning crackers by the Supreme Court Of India. Reports have suggested that while fewer crackers were burnt in Delhi, the areas surrounding the city did not follow the same rules. The AQI in Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Faridabad were 397, 392, 372 and 358 respectively.
The SAFAR report also suggested that the air quality in the city will take a toll for the worst in the first week of November. "The first week of November is likely to be the worst in terms of air quality when lack of winds will likely prevent dispersion of air pollutants leading to a spike in pollution" was cited in the report.
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