Diwali pollution levels lowest in Chandigarh since 2017

Chandigarh Pollution levels on Diwali were at their lowest since 2017 with the firecracker ban in place and fears of contracting Covid-19 keeping many people indoors.

Debendra Dalai, vice-president of the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee (CPCC), which maintains a record of the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) since 2017, said, “At the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station in Sector 25, the maximum AQI on the day of Diwali remained at 140, even as it had gone up to 341 in 2019 on Diwali.”

The firecracker ban, Dalai said, had some success due to people’s cooperation. “We hope the AQI will continue to stay in the moderate bracket now (between 100-200),” he added.

According to the data, of all five stations that measure AQI in the city, the highest AQI of 314 (very poor) was recorded at the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) in Sector 39. Last year, the AQI was 352 here. Such conditions can lead to respiratory illnesses on prolonged exposure.

The prominent pollutant at all the monitoring stations was PM2.5, which can get directly absorbed into the bloodstream and cause asthma, lung cancer and heart diseases.

Apart from Sector 39, other stations monitoring AQI recorded a dip, with Sector 17 registering 227 (poor). Although this was lower as compared to 247 in 2019, it was still higher than levels recorded in 2018 and 2017 .

“No firecrackers were burst in Sector 17, but AQI remained high probably because of the footfall here even on Diwali. The roads were crowded with vehicles and the footfall was equivalent to Diwali in previous years despite the pandemic,” said Neeraj Bajaj, president of the Business Promotion Council in Sector 17.

CPCC officials, meanwhile, said AQI in the busy market centre had been logged at 230 for the past week before the festival, so it actually fell to 217 on Diwali. Vehicular emissions, a source of PM2.5, could have been the cause, they said.

The good news was that Sunday evening’s rain spell cleared the air considerably. “Rain brings down the suspended particles in the air reducing the AQI,” said Surender Paul, director, India Meteorological Department, Chandigarh.

With rain likely to continue on Monday, AQI levels are likely to fall to the satisfactory bracket (between 50-100), he added.

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