New Delhi: This Diwali, air quality in the Capital may not be as bad as last year. It could plummet to ‘severe’ levels after Sunday, but for a shorter period, according to the government's air quality forecast.

On Friday, the air quality in Delhi remained in the ‘very poor’ category, with rise in concentration of both PM10 and PM2.5, majorly due to decreasing wind-speed which drastically reduced the dispersion of the pollutants.

According to the latest analysis from System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union ministry of earth sciences, the air quality could improve slightly during the next 24 hours as wind speed improves, but only to deteriorate sharply Sunday evening onwards.

It is most likely to be ‘severe’ on Monday, immediately after Diwali, exposing residents especially those with respiratory problems, children and elderly to greater health risk.

The highest impact of fire cracker emissions is expected on Monday morning between 1AM and 6AM.

The Supreme Court last year had banned the sale and manufacture of conventional firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR), allowing only 'green firecracker' which reduce emissions by 25-30% and have toxic components replaced with less harmful alternatives.

“If 50% of the total load of fire crackers, as compared to last year is added, the air quality index (AQI) may plunge into ‘severe’ category but for a shorter period of time unlike 2018, when it persisted for several days and with relatively much less magnitude (half) than 2018 Diwali period," as per the SAFAR forecast.

“The combination of several rapidly changing weather parameters play an important role in controlling the air pollution at this time and dynamics changes even if one parameters behaves erratically," said Gufrain Beig, Co-ordinator, SAFAR.

As on Saturday, scientists contend surface winds could improve and flush out the expected high impact of firecracker emissions after Diwali and conditions may begin to improve after Tuesday.

But even then, the air quality index (AQI) is still likely to oscillate between high and middle range of ‘very poor’ category till October 29.

The impact of the stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana remains moderate, but is gradually increasing.

“Till a few days ago, the number of fires as seen in the satellite pictures was lesser than last year, but it has again picked up. The pattern and location of fire spots is now similar to last year," said Ashim Mitra, scientist at IMD, New Delhi.

Areas around Delhi University (North campus), Pusa, Rohini-Punjabi Baugh, Wazirpur, Jahangirpuri, DTU and Bawana and some major residential areas have recorded higher levels of pollution. The air quality around Gurgaon, Ayanagar, Nahru Stadium monitoring stations has been slightly better.

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