Delhi, the heart of India, a city known for its vibrant culture and history, has been grappling with a different kind of legacy in recent years – a legacy of toxic air and choking smog. As we woke up on November 13, the morning after the Festival of Lights, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) stood at a concerning 266, as reported by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Despite efforts to curb air pollution, the city was once again shrouded in a thick layer of smog, causing alarm among its residents.
A Fragile Respite
For the past two weeks leading up to Diwali, Delhi had been experiencing “severe” air quality conditions, further worsening its already fragile air quality. The situation briefly improved following light showers on November 10, giving residents a glimmer of hope. The air quality on the morning of Diwali was the best in eight years, raising expectations of cleaner air. However, this respite proved to be short-lived.
Diwali Night and the Supreme Court’s Ban
On Diwali night, Delhi’s pollution levels skyrocketed, even though the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on the production, sale, storage, and bursting of firecrackers. The city’s skyline lit up, not with the glow of tradition but with the fiery emissions of firecrackers. Despite the ban, the tradition of bursting crackers continued, contributing to the post-Diwali smog.
The Delhi government had launched the “Diya Jalao, Patakhe Nahi” campaign, urging citizens to celebrate Diwali without firecrackers, recognizing the importance of curbing pollution. However, it proved to be ineffective in curbing pollution as many chose to defy the call. In response to the worsening air quality, the Delhi government took the difficult step of closing schools until November 18 to protect children from the hazardous air.
The Supreme Court, on November 7, ordered state governments to halt stubble burning, a major contributor to the smog engulfing Delhi. The court also emphasized the need for functional smog towers to help clean the air. Additionally, Delhi invoked GRAP Stage IV, an emergency action plan, to combat pollution, highlighting the gravity of the situation.
Causes of the Crisis
The deteriorating air quality in Delhi can be attributed to several factors. Stubble burning in neighboring states, particularly Punjab, has been a major contributor to the surge in air pollution. The lack of proper disposal of crop residues has caused a spike in air pollutants in the region. Vehicular emissions within the city have also played a significant role in deteriorating air quality, as traffic continues to grow. Moreover, the unfavorable meteorological conditions, including a drop in temperature and low wind speed, have compounded the problem, leading to the smog’s persistence.
Delhi’s struggle with air pollution continues, posing a serious threat to the health and well-being of its residents. The post-Diwali smog serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the root causes of this crisis. Government initiatives, such as the ban on firecrackers and measures to control stubble burning, are essential steps, but the battle is far from won.
It’s crucial for individuals, communities, and policymakers to work together to find sustainable solutions for Delhi’s air quality problems. By understanding the factors contributing to this crisis and taking collective action, we can hope to breathe cleaner air and restore Delhi to its former glory as a city of culture and vitality. The future of Delhi’s air quality depends on the choices we make today.