India was hit with alarmingly high levels of pollution on the day after Diwali, with air quality levels reaching ‘very unhealthy’ and ‘hazardous’ levels in many cities across the country. The situation improved slightly on Tuesday but the air quality remained well within toxic levels. The primary pollutants were particulate matter.
Delhi on Monday experienced dense smog and reduced visibility, with air quality deep in the ‘hazardous’ zone. The situation in the capital is expected to improve only on Wednesday, according to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). On Monday, all stations across the city saw air quality drop to ‘severe’ levels. The National Air Quality Index reported pollution levels at 500, the highest reading it can go at all seven stations that measure particulate matter (PM). Any reading between 400 and 500 on the National Air Quality Index means the air is severely polluted.
According to air quality monitored by the Central Pollution Control Board on Tuesday, PM 2.5 levels in the capital came down to 498 as compared to 999 on Monday in the US Embassy area. Both the limits however lie in the hazardous category. A similar trend was observed at RK Puram and Anand Vihar, where PM 2.5 came down to 599 and 672 respectively on Tuesday. PM 10 levels in the city came down to 836.1 micrograms per cubic metres as compared to 999 micrograms per cubic metres on the previous day. The safe limit of PM 10 is 100 micrograms.
In Mumbai, PM 2.5 came down significantly to 159 on Tuesday morning as compared to the hazardous level of 494, post Diwali. System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) had earlier said that particulate matter in the air in Mumbai was expected to increase this Diwali, leading to worsening of air pollution levels, more than last year.
Pune’s Shivajinagar area saw a slight increase in the air quality levels as PM 2.5 levels came down to 336 on Tuesday from 400 on Monday. The PM 2.5 levels which reached to a shocking hazardous level of 999 on Monday dropped down ver unhealthy levels of 218 on Tuesday.
Lucknow too experienced considerable improvement in pollution levels with PM 2.5 coming down to 387 on Tuesday from 834 on Monday.Towards the east, Kolkata also saw an improvement in Air Quality Index improving from very unhealthy level to unhealthy levels at 166 on Tuesday morning.
The particulate matter is very harmful and prolonged exposure can lead to respiratory diseases. Since particulate matter like RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter) are inhaled, lungs and the airway are the first organs to be affected. The elderly, children and pregnant women are the worst affected.
SAFAR had earlier predicted that pollution during this year’s Diwali is expected to be worse than those during 2014 and 2015, due to a combination of adverse meteorological factors like slow wind speed and moisture in the air, which is a source of major hindrance in the dispersion of suspended pollutants.