On the morning of November 13 at 6 am, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi’s NCR region recorded 266 post-Diwali, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Despite a directive from the Supreme Court, the city experienced a thick layer of smog on Diwali night, with the toxic haze persisting the following day due to extensive firecracker usage. Over the preceding two weeks, the national capital had been grappling with a prolonged period of ‘severe’ air quality, which showed temporary improvement after light showers on November 10. Interestingly, the air quality on the morning after Diwali was the best in eight years. However, this respite was short-lived as pollution levels surged on Diwali night, despite a ban on the production, sale, storage, and bursting of firecrackers.
In response to concerns about escalating pollution post-Diwali, the Delhi government launched the ‘Diya Jalao, Patakhe Nahi’ campaign, but its impact on curbing pollution was limited. Due to the worsening pollution levels, the Delhi government took the decision to close schools until November 18. On November 7, the Supreme Court directed state governments to halt stubble burning and ensure the functionality of the smog tower installed in Delhi. Additionally, GRAP Stage IV has been implemented in the city as a measure to combat pollution. The decline in air quality in Delhi is attributed to stubble burning incidents in neighboring states, particularly Punjab, and vehicular emissions, resulting in the deterioration of air quality across the Indo-Gangetic plain. Pollution levels rose not only in Delhi but also in Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan due to limited dispersion of pollutants. Unfavorable meteorological conditions, including a decrease in temperature and low wind speed, exacerbated the situation.
BJP MP Manoj Tiwari asserted that only a minimal number of firecrackers, including green crackers, were utilized during Diwali. Tiwari implied that the criticism from Congress and other parties stems from their objection to people of the Sanatan Dharma celebrating their festival. According to him, these parties seem to take issue with Diwali celebrations. In contrast, Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale, in a letter to Delhi police on November 13, sought information about cases related to the bursting of firecrackers on Diwali night. This indicates a concern about potential violations of regulations regarding firecracker usage. Despite the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s comprehensive ban on firecrackers, there were widespread violations, as evident from visuals in various parts of Delhi, such as Lodhi Road, RK Puram, Karol Bagh, and Punjabi Bagh, where firecrackers were observed being burst on Diwali evening. The reported violations suggest challenges in enforcing the ban on firecrackers during the festival.