NEW DELHI – New Delhi woke up on Thursday to toxic smog a day after the festival Diwali as people continued to let off firecrackers until the early hours despite a deadline set by the Supreme Court this year.
According to India’s Central Pollution Control Board, PM10 – particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers – and PM2.5 – particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers – were recorded as several times higher than those considered toxic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Lodhi Road, in the southern part of the city, PM10 levels around 6:00 am were recorded at 938 particles per cubic meter while PM2.5 were at 944, similar levels to those recorded in 2017.
The concentration of particulate matter varied slightly in other areas of the city.
PM10 and PM2.5 were recorded at 855 and 603 respectively in the western part of the city where the international airport is located.
The WHO considers a concentration of more than 100 micrograms per cubic meter of PM10 to be detrimental to human health, while levels above 200 and 300 are considered toxic.
The Supreme Court of India on Oct. 23 issued an order that the firecrackers could be let off only between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm and banned the use of lithium, arsenic, antimony, lead and mercury in firecrackers to curb the pollution levels in the national capital and other cities after Diwali due to suspended matter in the air.
Fireworks could be heard exploding well into the night in Delhi, after the limit set by the court.
India experiences severe air pollution just before winter sets in every year owing to the burning of crop stubble in northern India, changing weather patterns and particularly after the festival of Diwali.
According to WHO data from 2018, India has 14 out of the 18 most polluted cities in the world based on PM2.5 levels.