Guidelines go up in smoke, air quality dips in Punjab post-Diwali - Hindustan Times

Guidelines go up in smoke, air quality dips in Punjab post-Diwali

Oct 26, 2022 12:51 AM IST

Though the govt claimed a reduction in pollution vis-à-vis the previous Diwali, Punjab’s air quality index dropped from 153 (moderate) to 224 (poor) in a day

Punjab’s air quality dropped from moderate to poor as guidelines on bursting firecrackers went up in smoke on Diwali night even though the air quality index (AQI) is still better than in previous years. Besides, Diwali witnessed the highest number of over 1,000 farm fires of the season so far.

A family watches fireworks on the occasion of Diwali in Amritsar on Monday. (Sameer Sehgal /HT)
A family watches fireworks on the occasion of Diwali in Amritsar on Monday. (Sameer Sehgal /HT)

The Punjab government had allowed only environment-friendly or green firecrackers that cut down pollution by 30% to be burst during the window from 8 pm till 10 pm on Diwali. But people began bursting firecrackers around 6 pm, and the festivities continued till midnight as there was no one to check the violations and implement the guidelines.

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Diwali night witnessed the highest number of farm fires this season, with 1,019 incidents reported from Punjab. Tarn Taran, Patiala and Gurdaspur districts recorded over 100 farm fires each.

However, the PPCB claimed that the pollution decreased as compared to the previous Diwali (see table). Punjab has observed an average air quality index (AQI) reduction of 16.4% from the last year, claimed PPCB while releasing a comparison of AQI with the previous Diwali.

Overall, all 6 cities of Punjab observed a reduction in the AQI during this year’s Diwali (2022) as compared to last year’s Diwali days (2021), said Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, minister of science and technology, adding the average AQI of Punjab this year Diwali was 224 (poor) as compared to 268 (poor) in 2021 and 328 (very poor) in 2020.

The maximum AQI 262 (poor) was recorded at Amritsar this year.

However, if we compare the data to a day before Diwali, the average AQI of Punjab was 153 (moderate and post-Diwali, the farm fires and stubble burning deteriorated the AQI level by 44% and took it to a poor.

Last year, Diwali was on November 05, which was the time frame when most farm fires take place. This year, Diwali was early, and the paddy harvest was also delayed due to rain in early October.

The number of farm fires is set to increase further as harvest will be in full swing over the next 10 days. Farmers usually set the stubble on fire only after crops in neighbouring fields have also been harvested.

After Monday night, the total number of farm fires in the state this year has touched 5,617. However, on Tuesday, the number of farm fires dipped again, and only 181 farm fires were reported in the entire state, taking the total counts of this season to 5798.

On Tuesday morning, the AQI of Amritsar was 261, Ludhiana 262, Jalandhar 234 and Patiala 226.

The AQI in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, was recorded at 178. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered good, 51 and 100 satisfactory, 101 and 200 moderate, 201 and 300 poor, 301 and 400 very poor, and 401 and 500 severe.

Meanwhile, the PPCB chairman Prof Adarsh Paul Vig thanked the people of Punjab for following the advisory issued with respect to the time period fixed for bursting of firecrackers and using the green crackers for celebrations of the Diwali festival, resulting in an overall improvement in air quality as compared to last year and 2020 also.

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    Vishal Rambani is an assistant editor covering Punjab. A journalist with over a decade of experience, he writes on politics, crime, power sector, environment and socio-economic issues. He has several investigative stories to his credit.

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