New Delhi: Pollution levels in the National Capital Region (NCR) could spike after Diwali and fall back in the “severe" category because of fireworks, according to a report by the centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).

The warning comes in the wake of Delhi on Monday witnessing the worst air quality of the season.

The air quality could improve during 7-8 November only if no additional emissions from firecrackers are added, according to the latest air quality forecast by SAFAR.

“Even if 50% of the total load of toxic fire crackers as compared to Diwali last year is added, the prevailing weather conditions would aggravate the high smoke level and make air quality to persist in ‘severe’ category for at least two days (8 and 9 November)", said the report.

The contribution of stubble burning to pollution levels has decreased from 33% to 9% and is expected to decline further because of sufficiently high wind speed, the report highlighted.

“Surface winds would remain north-westerly, with a speed ranging from 5kmph to 15kmph. However, as the wind speed is sufficiently high, the pollutants are likely to cross Delhi without descending and as the lifetime of PM2.5 is short, it will diminish prematurely," said the forecast.

On Monday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded to be “severe" at 434 for Delhi. This improved on Tuesday to 338, which falls in the “very poor" category. The air quality in Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurugram also was in the “very poor" category on Tuesday at 350, 334, 351 and 309, respectively.

“Severe" levels could potentially affect the healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases, while “very poor" levels affect those with existing illness.

The weather department has predicted that there would be no significant drop in temperatures. However, smoke from fireworks would get trapped, forcing levels of particles in the air to become significantly higher in the morning, taking air quality to the “severe" category.

“The highest levels of PM10 and PM2.5 are expected between 11pm and 3am on the night of 7-8 November. However, if there is negligible fireworks, it will keep AQI in upper level of ‘very poor’," said the forecast by scientists from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.

The likely spike in pollution levels is also expected to bring down the ventilation index to 7,000m2/s on Wednesday, which could cause breathing trouble. A ventilation index lower than 6,000m2/s with average wind speed less than 10kmph is unfavourable for dispersion of pollutants and causes breathing trouble, according to scientists.

A group of people also protested outside the office of the ministry of environment, raising questions over the government’s action to tackle the impending health crisis caused by rising pollution levels.

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