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Pollution levels severe in Delhi as cracker ban is flouted

People burst firecrackers during 'Diwali' celebrations in Ghaziabad, Saturday,  14 November, 2020. Due to rising air pollution and risk of spike in covid infections, various states and Union Territories across the country have either imposed a complete ban on firecrackers on Diwali or permitted them with heavy restrictions.  (PTI)Premium
People burst firecrackers during 'Diwali' celebrations in Ghaziabad, Saturday, 14 November, 2020. Due to rising air pollution and risk of spike in covid infections, various states and Union Territories across the country have either imposed a complete ban on firecrackers on Diwali or permitted them with heavy restrictions. (PTI)

  • According to SAFAR-India, the air quality service of the ministry of earth sciences, the PM 2.5 level was 545
  • Delhi is currently facing a third wave of covid-19 infections with approximately 45,000 active cases

Air pollution levels in Delhi further rose a day after Diwali as residents in the National Capital Region (NCR) flouted the ban on sale and use of firecrackers. This comes as Delhi continues to face a high number of cases of covid-19.

According to SAFAR-India, the air quality service of the ministry of earth sciences, the PM 2.5 level was 545. Levels above 60 are considered to be unhealthy. Union health ministry has already said that high pollution levels could make people more prone to catching the coronavirus infection, which manifests itself in the respiratory tract.

Delhi is currently facing a third wave of covid-19 infections with approximately 45,000 active cases. Over the last week, Delhi has seen over 7,000 cases being reported each day.

The National Green Tribunal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led Delhi state government had announced a ban on the sale and use of crackers until the 30 November. However, the ban was flouted. Delhi faces a rise in pollution levels in the winter months due to fumes from stubble burning in neighbouring states, festivals and vehicular pollution.

Delhi, along with several other states in the country, had banned the sale and use of crackers. This year Delhi had announced a likely fine of up to 100,000 for bursting crackers.

“There is definitely an ongoing wave of covid-19, especially in many parts of India, and air pollution is making it worse. We need to act on multiple fronts to [take control of the situation] as far as this pandemic is concerned," said Dr Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

He said Delhi is facing a double whammy of air pollution and covid-19 as the virus can survive for a long time in polluted air and can cause a more severe outbreak.

Dr Guleria further said that there is data suggesting that mortality during air pollution continues to be high. "Every year in our hospital, we have done a study where we have followed all our admissions in an emergency for two years and what we found was that whenever the air quality index worsened there was an increase in admissions both in children and adults for respiratory diseases in next 5-6 days. This is being shown for the last 2-3 years, now with air pollution and Covid-19 this is going to become a huge burden," said Dr Guleria.

According to a report based on a study published in The Lancet, titled State of Global Air 2020, released by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) in cooperation with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia, more than 1.67 million deaths were linked to air pollution in India last year, including 116,000 babies who died in their first month of life.

The Lancet report pointed out that although the full links between air pollution and covid-19 are not yet known, there is clear evidence linking air pollution with increased heart and lung disease. This has led to concerns that exposure to high levels of air pollution during the winter months in India and elsewhere in Asia could worsen the effects of covid-19.

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