In the time of lights & smoke
With the persisting concern of "poor" air quality laden with dust and toxicity, the festival of lights (and smoke) will show the extents of the ability of city dwellers to breathe toxicity and also the sensitivity of people to the approaching seasonal environmental crisis. Just when Diwali knocks at the doors, the air quality in Delhi particularly slips to the season. The sudden increase in the amount of smoke and less wind on Diwali day as well the fog the day after only make the situation worse. With the air quality having already touched 'very poor' levels in the immediate past few days, the trend is likely to continued until suddenly compounded. The National capital Territory of Delhi is already atuned to breathing poison with the worst air quality indices. Stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana pick up normally at the start of October and the emissions from vehicular traffic preceding Diwali and pre-Diwali celebrations only add to the pollution, increasing its levels. The rate of pollution from burning crop residue is that while the number of fires owing to this practice was just three in the start of October, by the 18th of the month, it had risen to 343, followed by 367 on the 19th, and 491 on the 22nd. Deteriorating air quality is now a matter of not news but just updates. But what really counts is the efforts made in this direction to mitigate the impact of the popular practices during this time. The phenomenon of green firecrackers developed by a gamut of laboratories led by CSIR-NEERI, have finally hit the markets but in much less quantity than required, primarily owing to delay in finalising chemical compositions and granting manufacturing licences. In the times of festivals and the personal sentiments of people associated with traditional practices, it is not pragmatic to persuade people to refrain from indulging in frolicking but damaging practices but providing conducive alternatives is a better form of a solution. Till we reach that goal, let us hope to have a cleaner and happier Diwali.