Diwali brings ‘maximum’ pollution
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.