Fri, Nov 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Delhi choking after Diwali celebrations

POLLUTION:Residents largely ignored a Supreme Court ruling that required the use of environmentally friendly crackers and limited their use to between 8pm and 10pm

AFP, NEW DELHI

People burn firecrackers during the Diwali festival on Wednesday near New Delhi, India.

Photo: EPA

Air pollution in New Delhi yesterday hit hazardous levels after a night of free-for-all Diwali fireworks, despite Supreme Court efforts to curb the smog-fueling partying.

Major monuments, including the India Gate and Red Fort, were hidden by a toxic haze and commuters donned masks as visibility on major roads was reduced to barely 50m.

Diwali is the biggest Hindu festival of the year, when firecrackers are traditionally let off.

Early morning ambient air quality readings in Delhi — the world’s most polluted major city, according to the WHO — touched 526, the US embassy said.

The air quality index used by the embassy is a combined measure of poisonous gases and fine airborne particles.

Any figure above 500 causes serious aggravation of heart and lung diseases, with doctors advising residents to skip outdoor activity.

The Indian Supreme Court last month ruled that only environmentally friendly crackers can be sold in Delhi in a bid to cut the smog that has scarred the city’s international reputation.

However, the capital’s 20 million residents showed scant respect for the decision.

The court also ruled that firecrackers could only be set off between 8pm and 10pm, but their bangs were still reverberating around city neighborhoods well after midnight.

“For a few moments of enjoyment people are willing to endanger the planet. It is insane,” said Pranav Yadav, a 19-year-old student wearing a pollution mask as he headed for a metro train. “I expected people to show some concern, but at this rate it won’t be long until every child in Delhi has a respiratory disease.”

Delhi’s air quality typically worsens in winter due to pollution from the burning of rice stubble, diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.

Levels of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or smaller — have soared since last month, when farmers in Punjab and other nearby states started to burn post-harvest crop residue.

Mustafa Mohammed, a student and cycling enthusiast, said he could feel the air quality dip drastically as he set out to the India Gate in the heart of the city.

“I regularly cycle around here and what I can [see] today the pollution has really gone up after Diwali,” he said.

In 2016, Diwali festivities raised pollution levels to their highest in nearly two decades — forcing the closure of schools and other emergency measures.

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