Di­wali brings ‘max­i­mum’ pol­lu­tion

Weekend Herald - - World -

Pol­lu­tion reached max­i­mum “haz­ardous” lev­els in New Delhi on Thurs­day as Di­wali cel­e­bra­tions left the city en­gulfed in a thick layer of smog — de­spite a ban on toxic fire­works.

More than 300 peo­ple were ar­rested in In­dia’s cap­i­tal and 200 in Kolkata for flout­ing a Supreme Court or­der al­low­ing only “green fire­crack­ers” to be launched and for only two hours in the evening. Com­muters were seen wear­ing masks and gog­gles yes­ter­day as vis­i­bil­ity on ma­jor roads plunged to barely more than 100m.

The Govern­ment blamed the toxic air on farm­ers burn­ing stub­ble in their fields to pre­pare for win­ter sow­ing and the fire­works used to mark the Hindu fes­ti­val.

Mon­i­tors that mea­sure fine pol­lu­tants — small enough to pen­e­trate the lungs — hit dan­ger­ously high read­ings of more than 1500. The “safe” limit for such pol­lu­tants is 25, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion. An­other mea­sure, the Air Qual­ity In­dex, was at its max­i­mum of 999 around New Delhi’s Ma­jor Dhyan Chand Na­tional Sta­dium.

Any­thing above 300 is deemed haz­ardous to health. In com­par­i­son, Lon­don stood at 36 yes­ter­day.

Doc­tors in New Delhi have re­ported an in­crease in pa­tients with res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems in re­cent weeks.

For a sec­ond year run­ning, Arvind Ke­jriwa, New Delhi’s Chief Min­is­ter, has likened the city to a “gas cham­ber” and is de­mand­ing ac­tion.

Com­mand­ing of­fi­cers of lo­cal po­lice sta­tions were told they would be held per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for the sale of any banned fire­works in a bid to crack down on the pol­lu­tion. Po­lice seized 2780kg of fire­crack­ers from parts of the city but ad­mit­ted they were un­sure how to dis­tin­guish cheap fire­works con­tain­ing sul­phur and char­coal from the eco-friendly ones.

Fire­work bans — largely ig­nored by the pub­lic — are frowned upon for sup­press­ing re­li­gious free­doms.

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