NEW DELHI: Air pollution in most north Indian cities fell in the 'severe' category post-Diwali as most people defied the Supreme Court (SC) order on bursting green crackers in a limited time period of two hours.
The worst air quality was reported in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad district, Delhi and Patna with people complaining of breathlessness and coughing as skies remained engulfed in dense smog.
The SC, in its ruling had fixed a deadline of 8-10 pm for bursting of crackers, but people decided to defy it in majority of the cities. Even though, at many places, local police registered complaints against defaulters, that didn't act as a deterrent for others.
Delhi, NCR was the worst-affected with the Air Quality Index worse than last year and at some places the level of PM10 and PM 2.3 (Particulate Matter) was double compared to 2017. The SC's order for use of green crackers and designated area for bursting crackers was also flouted across India.
Experts said that pollution levels are likely to remain bad till November 10 and improve after that. They further said that the weather has also added to the problem as there was a dip in temperature and decrease in wind speed across north Indian states compared to last year that ensured longer suspension of toxic chemical in the atmosphere.
Severe pollution levels mean people are likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses on prolonged exposure and it will impact even healthy people. Doctors urged people to stay indoors and take special precautions for children, the elderly and asthmatic patients.
In Patna, air pollution levels worsened and the presence of respiratory suspended particulate matter (RSPM) was recorded at 767 microgram per cubic metre of air, which was around 12 times more than on normal days.
The pollution was comparatively under control in Ranchi, Jharkhand as levels did not go beyond 283.80 micrograms per cubic meters this year against 383.80 last year. Residents of Mumbai also breathed polluted air as pollution levels went from 'satisfactory' on Monday to 'very poor' on Thursday.
In Kolkata, the pollution levels at some places were similar to Delhi prompting Kolkata Police to arrest 93 people for violations.
Other major cities faced a similar situation. According to a senior official at the MPPCB, the AQI figure on this Diwali in Bhopal when compared to the figure of the last few days had worsened and varied between ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’, but when compared to figures of Diwali in the last two-three years, there was marginal improvement of 5-8 per cent. Parts of Rajasthan also witnessed high pollution levels and a spike in levels of toxic chemicals in the air.