NEW DELHI: Air pollution in New Delhi hit hazardous levels on Thursday after a night of free-for-all Diwali fireworks, despite Supreme Court efforts to curb the smog-fuelling partying.
Major monuments including the India Gate and Red Fort were hidden by a toxic haze. Commuters donned masks as visibility on major roads was reduced to barely 50 metres.
Diwali is the biggest Hindu festival of the year, when firecrackers are traditionally let off.
Ambient air quality in what the World Health Organisation has said is the world’s most polluted major city touched 595 on Thursday morning, according to the US embassy in Delhi which independently monitors pollution levels.
Any reading over 300 is considered hazardous and a danger even to healthy people.
India’s Supreme Court ruled last month that only environmentally friendly fireworks — that emit less smoke and soot — can be sold in Delhi, in a bid to cut the smog that has scarred the city’s international reputation.
The court also said firecrackers could only be set off between 8pm and 10pm. But the capital’s 20 million residents turned a deaf ear to the ruling.
Crackers and rockets reverberated around city neighbourhoods well after midnight.
“For a few moments of enjoyment people are willing to endanger the planet. It is insane,” Pranav Yadav, a 19-year-old student wearing a pollution mask said.
“I expected people to show some concern but at this rate it won’t be long till every child in Delhi has a respiratory disease,” added Yadav as he headed for a metro train.
Delhi police had vowed to punish violaters of the Supreme Court order but could not immediately say whether charges had been made.
“Local police stations have registered several complaints, we are trying to collect all the information,” Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal said.
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2018