Massive crop burning near NCR, air to be ‘severe’ again

Representative image

When questioned about the air quality readings, West Bengal Pollution Control Board chairman Kalyan Rudra refused to draw any conclusion about the improvement or deterioration in the air pollution during Kali Puja and Diwali on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. The air quality deteriorated overnight from "very poor" to "hazardous" category as Delhiites continued to burst Diwali firecrackers long after the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

A level of 50 or less is considered safe.

Despite the Supreme Courts directives, people in Delhi-NCR on Wednesday continued to burst crackers on Diwali well past the 10 p.m. deadline though the air quality index (AQI) showed a slight improvement over a year ago.

"For a few moments of enjoyment people are willing to endanger the planet". Violations were also recorded in Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur and other major cities. "It is insane", Pranav Yadav, a 19-year-old student wearing a pollution mask told AFP.

The national capital rendered Supreme Court order defunct as it burst toxic firecrackers with delinquent incorrigibility, as Delhi recorded its worst air quality of the year the morning after Diwali.

The overall AQI Thursday was recorded in the "severe plus emergency" category at 642, according to authorities.

"The fire counts are seen to be very high but it is a combination of stubble burning and widespread firecrackers in that region and need not be confused with stubble only fire", it said in a report.

The World Health Organisation warned the smog could seriously aggravate heart or lung diseases.

Sunil Dahiya, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India, said religious fervour was one of the reasons why people still let off fireworks despite mounting health concerns.

Asked if the CSE has any data on bursting of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR, the official said: "CSE is not taking much stand exactly on firecrackers this time but it (pollution) was 6.5 times higher in Delhi and NCR than the standard (60) category within 24 hours".

All efforts to curb air pollution on Diwali went up in smoke on Wednesday in the state capital, which anyway carries the ignominy of being the fifth-most polluted city in the world, and the air quality on Thursday worsened to almost five times the prescribed safe limit. Large swathes of India's northern states remained under dense smog that has shut hundreds of thousands of schools, disrupted air and railway services and forced residents to stay indoors.

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