File photo.

(A Moeed Faruqui/BCCL)

Tuesday, October 25: Never one to do anything in half-measures, Delhi’s Diwali celebration on Monday was every bit as lively and spirited as the previous years. Despite the government-imposed ban on producing and selling fireworks in the capital, Delhiites found a way to burst crackers. And the dust from the celebrations is yet to settle, as the city’s already-perilous air quality has further worsened.

According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi stands at 353 as of 11 AM on Tuesday, putting it in the ‘very poor’ category. Its PM2.5 levels stand at 189 and PM10 at 295.

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 to 100 is ‘satisfactory’, 101 to 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 to 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 to 500 ‘severe’.

Over the course of the day, the air quality could even touch the ‘upper end of Very Poor’ or ‘lower end of Severe’ due to the net effect of stubble fire emissions, local weather and Diwali firecracker emissions. And tomorrow, the AQI might improve the slightest bit, SAFAR predicts.

All three critical factors: favourable stubble transport level wind speed and direction, calm local weather conditions, and shallow inversion layer height trapping pollutants and additional fire cracker-related emissions (if any) are predicted to act together to impact the overall air quality in Delhi-NCR.

Meanwhile, sensitive groups are advised to avoid all outdoor physical activities, while asthmatics must keep relief medicine handy. Everyone else can make a note of the following preventative measures:

  • Stop outdoor activity at early morning and after sunset.
  • Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.
  • Go for a short walk instead of a jog and take more breaks.
  • Stop any activity level if you experience any unusual coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, breathing difficulty, or fatigue.
  • Keep windows closed.
  • If the air conditioner provides a fresh air intake option, keep that closed.
  • Avoid burning wood, candles or incense.
  • Keep the room clean; wet mopping is advisable to reduce dust.
  • Wearing an N-95 mask or using P-100 respirators before stepping out is recommended.

Since 2015, Delhi’s AQI on Diwali has consistently stayed above 300, with 2018 and 2022 being the only exceptions where AQI figures have stayed below 300. However, the AQIs during Diwali day are not indicative of the overall situation. Past trends show that air quality in the capital usually dips in the days following Diwali, and that has held true this time around as well.

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