New Delhi: With air quality reduced to “very severe” in Delhi, authorities are bracing for Diwali, where massive fireworks threaten to cloak the city with more toxic smog and dust.

The government’s Central Pollution Control Board on Friday said Delhi’s air quality had plummeted to the worst possible category. The level of PM2.5, tiny particulate matter that can dangerously clog lungs, was 187, more than six times higher than the World Health Organization considers safe.

Precautionary measures

The board warned people to avoid jogging outdoors in the early morning and after sunset and to keep medicine nearby if asthmatic. It also advised people to wear masks as a precaution.

Air pollution at an all-time high

The most recent air pollution data from the World Health Organization released in March gave India the dubious distinction of having the world’s 10 most polluted cities.

Delhi, which once was the world’s most polluted city, ranks sixth. But experts say the data does not suggest that Delhi’s air quality has improved, but rather that more Indian cities’ air has worsened.

A Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Authority warned on Thursday that air pollution in the capital region is likely to peak from November 1 as toxic fumes from the burning of agricultural fields in the neighbouring northern states of Haryana and Punjab could blow in because of a change in wind direction.

“Weather conditions are projected to become adverse from November 1,” warned the India Meteorological Department.


Crop burning will be at its peak in the first week of November as farmers prepare their fields for sowing winter crops, mainly wheat. They have been ignoring government warnings of a penalty, saying they can’t afford to buy harvesting machines costing up to 50,000 rupees apiece.

Some activists urged India’s top court to order a complete ban on exploding firecrackers during the Hindu Diwali festival less than two weeks away. The court, however, only imposed certain conditions for the sale and use of firecrackers.

Government rules

The court earlier this week ordered that firecrackers could be exploded between 8 pm and 10 pm on the festival night on November 7 and could not be sold online. It also said that only less polluting firecrackers could be manufactured and sold.

Saurabh Bhasin, one of the three advocates who brought the firecrackers case to the Supreme Court on behalf of the advocates’ young children, said the focus is now on finding ways to force implementation.

“With air, while individuals can do their best, at the end of the day the solution does lie with the government and the authorities a lot more than with us. From an implementation perspective, frankly, now the ball really does shift to the government and local authorities,” he said.

Authorities also are trying to lower the amount of dust in the air by sprinkling water in many neighbourhoods and ordering builders to cover construction sites.

The transport department is checking buses entering the region for valid emission papers and threatening to punish violators. The government has banned diesel vehicles that are more than 10 years old.

Clean air, better life

ReNew Power, India's largest renewable energy IPP in terms of total energy generation capacity, recently announced that it has joined hands with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) in its 'Clean Air Better Life' initiative to help farmers from the state of Punjab; with alternative stubble management techniques to address the complex problem of increasing levels of air pollution in Delhi NCR.

Under this program, the company has committed to support 500 farmers from Ludhiana district and provide them access to climate-smart technological solutions for farm residue management.

With agency inputs