Tue, Oct 29, 2019 - Page 5 News List

New Delhi fights pollution after Diwali

‘VERY POOR’:Revelers largely ignored a Supreme Court ban on most fireworks, setting off firecrackers and pushing the air quality index beyond the top recordable level of 999

AFP, NEW DELHI

After India’s biggest firework party of the year, New Delhi yesterday awoke to a pollution hangover, with the capital forced to breathe hazardous levels of toxic particles.

A thick smog engulfed landmarks, such as the Red Fort and India Gate, while drivers had visibility cut by the haze that built up after the Diwali holiday weekend.

With the pollution threat growing over the past decade, the Indian Supreme Court banned most fireworks for the Hindu festival of lights.

However, few revelers followed the order.

Firecrackers and rockets lit up the night sky and left clouds of smoke, adding to emissions from vehicles and stubble fires by farmers around New Delhi, which have made it the world’s most-polluted capital.

Tens of thousands of people set off firecrackers into the early hours of yesterday, pushing the government air quality index beyond the top recordable level of 999.

While the pollution was less serious than previous years, the amount of the most harmful PM2.5 pollutants was still more than 20 times international safe levels at several locations in the city of 20 million people during commuting hours.

PM2.5 are particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 micrometers that can penetrate the lungs and enter the blood system, causing serious respiratory and heart diseases.

The Indian government monitoring system said air quality was “very poor” tomorrow morning.

Experts said the toxic cocktail that hits New Delhi and other Indian cities each winter causes the premature deaths of more than 1 million people each year.

Weather officials said moderate winds would help clean the city’s air, but that increased fires on farms in Haryana and Punjab states was a particular threat.

Thousands of farmers in Haryana burn their rice and wheat stubble in between planting new crops sending clouds of smoke toward New Delhi.

Experts said this contributes one-fifth of the PM2.5 pollution that hits the city each year, while the millions of vehicles on the roads, and unregulated construction and factory emissions are the major cause.

The Indian government has taken a slew of anti-pollution measures in the past few years, including shutting down thermal power plants and banning construction during the pollution season.

Starting next month, motor vehicles with odd and even registration plates are to be allowed on New Delhi roads on alternating days in a bid to reduce road traffic.

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