THIS DIWALI is expected to be more polluted than the last, with high humidity and low winds aiding the concentration of pollutants in the air. According to officials, air quality will plummet between 11 pm on Sunday and 3 am on Monday and will start improving thereafter. With the capital’s air quality declining earlier than usual this winter, Health Minister Satyendar Jain Friday announced a three-tier air treatment system at five intersections on a trial basis to tackle the rising air pollution levels.
This includes setting up wind purification units, mist fountains and a virtual chimney at five major traffic intersections to deal with air pollution. The system — which will tackle levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons — will be set up within 45 days in collaboration with the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and IIT (Bombay).
The air purifiers will be installed at five major traffic intersections — Anand Vihar, ITO, Sarai Kale Khan, Kashmere Gate and AIIMS. “We also plan to install a mist fountain at one intersection to bring down PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels,” said Jain.
The decision came after the Delhi government held a meeting with experts from NEERI and IIT (Bombay). Earlier this year, NEERI piloted a similar project in collaboration with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board. It claimed that the air treatment system has the potential to reduce carbon monoxide and particulate emission by 40-60 per cent.
According to an air quality forecast, issued by the System of Air Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), “The wind is likely to become easterly coinciding with Diwali period. The temperature has also dropped by at least 2 degrees Celsius within a week. This scenario is likely to hold the locally-generated firecrackers emissions within Delhi, slowing down the dispersion, resulting in increased levels of PM2.5 and PM10 pollution unlike 2015 when winds swept away a large share.”
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The most polluted area will be Noida, followed by Pusa Road and Delhi University, stated the forecast. Lodhi Road will be the least polluted.
According to SAFAR, the average city air quality was very “poor” on Friday and is expected to be “very poor” on Saturday as well. Sunday and Monday will see “severe” air quality.
“The highest levels of PM10 and PM2.5 are expected between 11 am and 3 pm on the night of October 30 and 31. Air quality will be worst on October 31 and will start to improve from November 1,” stated the forecast.
The National Air Quality Index also showed that Friday’s air quality was between “very poor” and “severe” at all six stations that measure particulate matter levels. According to the index, air quality is good when it shows a value between 0 and 50. It is very poor between 300 and 400 and severe above 400.
Anumita Roychowdhury of the Centre for Science and Environment said public support is needed to boycott fireworks. She added that the government needs to enforce existing rules about where and when fireworks can be burnt.
According to Supreme Court guidelines, no crackers should be burnt between 10 pm and 6 am, and they should not be burnt near hospitals, schools, court buildings, narrow streets, apartment blocks and dense traffic areas. These guidelines are not enforced.
The Delhi government has also appealed to people to celebrate a “cracker-free” Diwali to reduce air pollution. Environment Minister Imran Hussain also inaugurated an anti-fire cracker campaign at a city school on Friday.