Delhiites ring out 2018 with 'severe' Air Quality Index
2018 recorded a total of 18 days of severe AQI in comparison to nine in 2017
NEW DELHI: Diwali was toxic, Christmas was too and so was New Year's Eve with the air quality 'severe' on the last day of 2018, in sync perhaps with a year in which there was no getting away from the pollution. As Delhiites prepared to ring in a New Year with the air quality index (AQI) hovering at hazardous levels, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reported that 2018 was twice as bad as 2017 in terms of 'severe' air quality days.
In 2018, a total of 18 severe air quality days were recorded in comparison to nine the previous year, CPCB data showed. The year, weary Delhiites said, seemed to pass in a blur of 'severe', 'very poor' and 'poor' air quality days, forcing children and the elderly to stay indoors, morning walkers delaying their daily exercise and schools moving around play times to reduce exposure to the outdoors.
Experts said Delhiites breathed over three months of toxic air in 2018. However, the number of 'very poor' days in 2018 was 82, less than the 106 such days in 2017, the CPCB data said. An AQI between 100 to 200 comes under the 'moderate' category, 201 and 300 is 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', while that between 401 and 500 is 'severe'.
There was little escaping the pollution, even in the dying days of 2018 with the last ten days of the year witnessing intense pollution spells, when the AQI would slip to 'severe' by night and then slightly improve to 'very poor'. According to officials, the combination of calm wind and colder conditions is elevating pollution levels at night while it gets marginally better during the day with wind speeds picking up slightly and temperatures increasing.
The reason for the region's worsening pollution in the summer months can also be attributed to a dust storm in June that resulted in a sudden spike in PM10 (fine particulate matter in the air with a diameter of less than 10 micrometer) level and pushed the overall air quality to 'severe'.
The air quality after June showed improvement with the monsoon season, but even then there were just three days of good air quality. But the air quality started deteriorating again from October, worsening to 'very poor'. The first episode of 'severe' air quality of the winter season was registered on October 31.
The days around Diwali were the worst - 'severe' two days earlier and the worst of the year the day after on November 8 when an AQI of 642 was recorded. The pollution after Diwali was 11 times the permissible limit, due to rampant bursting of toxic firecrackers in violation of a Supreme Court order. In 2017, the AQI a day after Diwali was 367.
Unfortunately, Christmas was terrible too with unfavourable conditions like a drop in temperature again pushing the national capital's air quality