Delhi’s air quality has once again deteriorated, with several areas in the city reporting ‘severe’ pollution levels on Tuesday morning. This alarming situation follows a blame game between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party regarding the late-night use of firecrackers during Diwali celebrations on Sunday. Despite some relief from rain, pollution levels in Delhi surged, and a smoky haze returned after residents disregarded the ban on firecrackers during Diwali night.
On Monday, the average Air Quality Index (AQI) was measured at 358, classified as ‘very poor.’ Interestingly, the city had witnessed its best air quality on Diwali day in eight years, with a 24-hour average AQI of 218 at 4 pm on Sunday.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data revealed that several locations in Delhi reported ‘severe’ AQI levels on Tuesday. RK Puram recorded an AQI of 422 at 5 am, with the dominant pollutant being lung-damaging particulate matter PM2.5. Dwarka’s air quality also turned ‘severe’ with an AQI of 406, and ITO reported an AQI of 432 at 5 am, expected to persist at similar levels throughout the day.
The excessive use of firecrackers in the vicinity, along with inadequate police enforcement of the ban on firework sales and use, led to alarmingly high PM2.5 concentrations in areas like Anand Vihar. The AQI in the neighboring city of Noida also stood at 406, and Noida Sector-62 reported a ‘very poor’ AQI of 377, likely to turn ‘severe’ later in the day.
In Gurugram, Haryana, residents woke up to toxic air with an AQI of 430 in Sector-51 on Tuesday morning. Classes from nursery to fifth grade, which had been suspended due to high pollution levels, are set to resume. Earlier, primary schools were closed to protect schoolchildren from the rising pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Delhi’s Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, accused individuals associated with the BJP of instigating residents to burn firecrackers on Diwali, resulting in a significant increase in the city’s air quality index. He mentioned that the firecrackers used in Delhi were sourced from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, and some individuals, including police personnel from these states, allowed their transportation into the city.
The BJP countered these allegations, with Delhi BJP Vice President Kapil Mishra stating that it was foolish to blame firecrackers for air pollution. He pointed out that Delhi’s air quality index was around 400-500 a week before Diwali and had improved to 296 post-Diwali. The debate on air pollution and its causes continues to be a contentious issue in the region.
According to IQAir, a Swiss company specializing in air quality monitoring, Delhi was ranked as the most polluted city in the world on Monday, followed by Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan, while Mumbai and Kolkata were the fifth and sixth most polluted cities globally.