In a disconcerting turn of events, two Indian cities have surged into the list of the world’s top 10 most polluted cities, joining New Delhi, following exuberant Diwali celebrations that blanketed the air with heavy smoke.
New Delhi, as customary, claimed the undesirable top spot with an alarming Air Quality Index (AQI) of 420, categorizing it as ‘hazardous,’ according to the Swiss group IQAir. Notably, Kolkata in India’s east secured the fourth position with an AQI of 196, while Mumbai, the financial capital, clinched the eighth spot with an AQI of 163.
An AQI range of 400-500 poses significant health risks, particularly to individuals with pre-existing conditions, while a range of 150-200 induces discomfort for those with asthma, lung, and heart problems. Levels of 0-50 are considered good.
The onset of a thick layer of smog in New Delhi began on Sunday night, skyrocketing its AQI to a startling 680 shortly after midnight. Despite annual bans on firecrackers, enforcement remains sporadic.
As winter approaches, India grapples with worsening air quality due to a confluence of factors, including vehicle emissions, industrial pollutants, construction dust, and agricultural waste burning. Authorities in New Delhi, which experiences a yearly spike in pollution levels before winter, initially considered restricting vehicle use but delayed the decision after a brief respite from toxic air following Friday’s rain.
Amid the escalating pollution crisis, local authorities plan to reassess the situation post-Diwali, considering measures to mitigate the environmental and health hazards caused by the widespread pollution.