This year, Diwali was a lot quieter across some areas of the city than last two years. An analysis by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) that monitored noise levels across 18 locations in the city found areas at Satara Road, Koregaon Park and even Swargate toning down the volume.
While a long-term action plan is required to bring down both noise and air pollution levels, the Supreme Court ban on the sale of firecrackers in NCR and Delhi region also had an impact in other cities. Nitin Shinde, Sub-Regional Officer, Pune, told The Indian Express that the news about the ban nearly a fortnight ahead of Diwali in Delhi also had an impact in other cities.
Monitoring of noise levels was done by MPCB on October 19 (Laxmi Puja), October 20 (Padwa) and October 21 (Bhau beej). “While almost all locations have flouted permissible limits for noise in commercial (65dB) and residential (55dB) areas, we found that several locations showed a trend where the noise levels had come down as against previous years,” Shinde said. For instance, at the busy Satara Road, the pollution control body registered an average of 70.0 decibels (dB) on October 19 while the average decibel level on October 20 was as low as 58.0 dB. Last year the same area had registered an average of 74.3 dB.
“In fact, the hourly monitoring from 6 am till 10 pm at some locations showed a recording of levels between 50 and 75 dB,” Shinde said. This trend has been observed across other areas at Koregaon Park and Swargate for instance, MPCB officials said. Last year, the average noise level during Diwali day (October 19) at Koregaon Park was 75.7 dB and this year it has shot down to 71.4 dB. At Swargate, the average noise level last year was 82.8 dB which has come down to 78.4 dB. On October 20, the average noise levels climbed down to 63.3 dB at Koregaon Park while it was 64.1 dB at Swargate.
The loudest noise was at Laxmi Road, Kothrud and Sarasbaug. The average levels on the day of the Laxmi Puja was 86.9 dB at Laxmi Road, 89.5 dB at Kothrud and 89.8 dB at Sarasbaug, MPCB officials said. The permissible limits for noise in commercial and residential areas are 65 dB and 55 dB, respectively. Air quality to improve from October 22.
The permissible level of air pollutant – particulate matter (PM) 2.5 – is 60 per cubic metre. On Diwali day (October 19), the particulate matter (PM) 2.5 was recorded to be 82.75µg/m3 which falls under the “moderate” category of the Air Quality Index (AQI). On October 20 (Padwa), it was recorded as 138.59 µg/m3 which falls under “very poor” category of AQI.
Scientists at the System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), Indian Institute of Tropical Meterology explained that on Diwali Day, there was around 2ºC drop in the minimum temperature as compared to previous days. This drop in the minimum temperature, along with calm winds, resulted in the accumulation of pollutants emitted from firecrackers. However, air quality is likely to improve from October 22, Dr Gufran Beig, project manager of SAFAR and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) scientist, said.
Mukesh Khare, professor of Environmental Engineering at IIT, Delhi, said, “Short-term and ad hoc decisions can not solve the problem of air pollution. The policy and planning authorities of the country must make pollution control and management framework mandatory before the budget is allocated to any developmental work – it should be done at the state level. Though in India, we have this policy in all the states at the local body level, its compliance is not effective and efficient.”