In the days after Diwali: As temperatures dip and firecrackers explode, air quality plunges in Pune

However, SAFAR scientists said that air quality in the city is going to improve with an increase in temperature.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Updated: November 2, 2016 12:54 am
Studies have shown firecrackers have significant amounts of heavy metals like lead and cadmium and their fumes contain highly harmful oxides of sulphur, phosphorous, nitrogen and carbon. Fire department chief said they attended to 7 fire calls during Diwali last year

Pune’s air quality levels have plunged to ‘very poor’ in the days following Diwali. Low wind speed, a dip in the minimum temperature and additional emissions from firecrackers contributed to the significant increase in air quality index (AQI). AQI is an indicator by the System for Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) to measure pollution levels.

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However, SAFAR scientists said that air quality in the city is going to improve with an increase in temperature.

Under AQI, levels between 201-300 fall under the ‘poor’ category and between 301-400 is considered ‘very poor’, indicating a health risk for people sensitive to air pollution.

A day after Diwali, the AQI in Pune was 337, which falls under the ‘very poor’ category, said Neha Parkhi, senior programme officer at SAFAR.

On Diwali, October 30, Pune had witnessed a ‘moderate’ category AQI of 192.

Last year, while the air quality levels were moderate — 135 — on Diwali, it was poor in the days following the festival, when the AQI rose to 205. However, this year, the air quality levels dipped to ‘very poor’ on Diwali.

The prominent pollutant is PM 2.5 — particles smaller than 2.5 microns in size — which are considered dangerous as these can penetrate deep inside the lungs and also enter the bloodstream. While the permissible limit is 60 microgram per cubic metre, on Diwali the PM 2.5 level was 88, and it had reached 168 a day after Diwali.

In Pune, Katraj witnessed the highest levels of pollution, followed by Shivajinagar and Hadpsar, while the least polluted area was Manjri.

SAFAR analyses the air quality level of Pune on the basis of information collected by 10 monitoring stations across Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. The figure is an average of data collated over 24 hours and the weather plays a crucial role in determining pollution levels in the city.

Currently, the most dominant weather parameter in Pune is the temperature. The minimum temperature dropped by almost 4 per cent in the last one week, and it again fell by one per cent on Diwali. The wind speed was observed to be between 1-1.5km/hour during Diwali, explained Parkhi.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, which monitored noise levels during Diwali, is going to release its findings later. But residents from several areas in the city said that fewer firecrackers were used this Diwali.

“Most people are aware of the harmful effects of firecrackers. Despite the dip in the number of firecrackers, the pollutants created a haze on Diwali night and the next day morning,” said Sundeep Salvi, director of the Chest Research Foundation.