Simply banning sale of firecrackers not a solution to Delhi's toxic air problem, finds study

It seems the Supreme Court's efforts to ensure a clean and firecracker-free Diwali in Delhi, with a ban put in place on the sale of firecrackers, were all in vain as data from a report indicates there was no impact on the pollution levels in the city.

According to a report in The Hindu, the idea behind the Supreme Court judgment to test whether reduced firecracker use could alleviate the noxious pollution in Delhi during winter was a bust.

Simply banning sale of firecrackers not a solution to Delhis toxic air problem, finds study

Representational image. Reuters

A Goa-based research group, Urban Emissions, simulated three scenarios using emissions and weather data – where the ban saw zero percent, 25 percent and 50 percent reduction in cracker use respectively.

"The pollution peaks only matched at zero percent. This means that there was no effect of the ban on what people managed to burst," the report quoted Sarath Guttikunda, the director of Urban Emissions, as saying.

The research was supported by the numbers reported on the day as online indicators of the pollution monitoring stations in Delhi glowed red, indicating 'very poor' air quality as the volume of ultrafine particulates PM2.5 and PM10, which enter the respiratory system and manage to reach the bloodstream, sharply rose from around 7 pm. Real-time pollution data appeared alarming. The pollutants had violated the corresponding 24-hour safe limits of 60 and 100 respectively by up to 10 times.

According to The Indian Express, "the volume of pollutants were almost identical, at places even higher, when placed against the figures of 2014 or 2015, making it difficult to attribute the marginal dip to any particular factor, such as the ban on the sale of firecrackers in the region by the Supreme Court."

Better than last year

Though the report suggests that the ban had no impact on the pollution levels, 2017 fared much better in terms of pollution levels.  Air quality in the national capital was better than 2016, according to a data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The Air Quality Index (AQI) value on the day was 319, putting it in the "very poor" category, while the AQI last Diwali (30 October) had touched "severe" level after recording an index value of 431. As per the AQI released by the CPCB at 4 pm, particulate matters were the major contributors to "very poor" air quality on Diwali.

However, reports suggest that this has more to do with the date of the festival this year (19 October) than last year's (30 October), which is closer to the time thick smog associated with crop-burning enters the city. Strong winds this year also helped disperse the pollution faster.

SAFAR has also predicted a relatively cleaner post-Diwali air due to favourable meteorological conditions, which are helping prevent the smoke-filled air from the agricultural belt of Haryana and Punjab from entering the national capital.

A 'very poor' air quality index (AQI) essentially means that people may suffer from respiratory illnesses on a prolonged exposure to such air. If the air quality dips further, the AQI will turn 'severe', which may trouble even those with sound health conditions and seriously affect those with ailments.

"The poor air quality in Delhi despite the ban showed that other pollution sources, such as vehicular emissions, have been neglected by the government," The Hindu report quoted said Amit Bhatt, who studies sustainable cities at the World Resources Institute, Delhi, as saying.

Mumbai worst in its state

The hazardous impact of the festival of lights (and firecrackers) did not spare the financial capital either as pollution levels in Mumbai on Diwali were the worst in Maharashtra.

A Times of India report quoted data from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board's nine-city air quality analysis, that found that the air quality index (AQI) in Mumbai on Diwali was 219 (moderate category). This is almost double of Mumbai's AQI of 115 on the same day in 2016.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2017 12:25:18 IST

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