Rajat Sharma


AKB30 On Diwali night, the Supreme Court’s ban on firecrackers in Delhi went up in smoke, as the entire National Capital Region was enveloped in a lethal haze of smoke by next morning. Particulate matter 2.5 levels rose sharply, breached all limits. The most polluted spots were Anand Vihar with 1,985, followed by Patparganj with 1,856, Jahangirpuri 1,792, Nehru Nagar with 1,784 and Nehru Stadium with 1,423 micrograms per cubic meter particulate matter in air. Overall, Delhi’s AQI jumped up from 218 in ‘poor’ category’ top 403 in ‘severe’ category. Scientists attributed the rise in AQI to emissions from firecrackers, stubble burning in neighboring states and adverse meteorological conditions, resulting in accumulation of pollutants on Monday morning. The Central Pollution Control Board put the AQI in Anand Vihar at 296, in Punjabi Bagh at 290 and at ITO at 263, while it was 362 on Pusa Road and 290 in R K Puram. Delhi Pollution Control Committee said, air pollution level rose by 45 per cent this year compared to last year’s Diwali. Centre for Science and Environment scientists said, by 2 am, AQI entered the 900-1,000 range in some localities. There was mudslinging between AAP and BJP leaders in Delhi, with Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai alleging that firecrackers were burst in “a targeted manner in some places at the behest of local BJP leaders”. He alleged that despite ban, firecrackers were smuggled in from Haryana and UP to Delhi. BJP leader Kapil Mishra described Rai’s allegation as “shameful”. Mishra said, it is foolish to hold firecrackers responsible for air pollution. The interesting point to note is that Punjab government has claimed that air quality improved after Diwali this year. The state government claimed that there was 8 per cent improvement in AQI across the state compared to last year. The ground reality is that Punjab’s air quality deteriorated by 30 per cent compared to pre-Diwali figures. On November 11, AQI in several cities of Punjab was around 100, but after Diwali, AQI was 169 in Patiala, 166 in Ludhiana, 161 in Amritsar and 167 in Sangrur. Clearly, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s government can pat its own back by comparing Diwali figures with those of last two years. AAP leaders are yet to say who is responsible for air pollution in Punjab. It is surprising that the issue of air pollution has become a political issue among parties. Nearly two crore people living in National Capital Region are being forced to inhale lethal air, but the Delhi environment minister, instead of exploring solutions, is blaming BJP leaders for inciting people to burst crackers on Diwali night. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people trying to explain that the ban on firecrackers did not work, neither in Delhi, nor in Mumbai. It was also said that those supporting ban on Diwali firecrackers are anti-Hindu. The reality is, nobody knows the exact and the main reason behind air pollution in Delhi: Whether it is burning of paddy stubble in Punjab? or bursting of firecrackers in Delhi on Diwali night? Nor do people have a definite solution for tackling air pollution. The single night shower accompanied by winds in Delhi last weekend cleared the continuous haze within minutes, but when rainfall and blowing of winds stopped, air pollution was back. It would be better if all stakeholders and political leaders sit together, rack their brains and find a durable solution to air pollution, so that they can be saved from levelling charges and counter-charges next year.

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