Post Diwali, Air Quality Degrades In Guwahati; SC Order On Cracker Bursting Violated
GUWAHATI: With Diwali celebrations coming to an end, citizens now find themselves vulnerable to the threat posed by the degrading air quality - the threat which is still lingering in the air we are breathing.
The Diwali celebrations in Guwahati, like in other parts of the country, breached standard air quality parameters even though the Supreme Court of India, in its order, restricted the bursting of crackers on Diwali night to between 8 PM and 10 PM. The apex court had stressed on bursting eco-friendly green crackers that were less toxic and low on noise.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Guwahati had shot up to 371 on October 27 (Sunday) and 336 on October 28 (Monday).
A Pollution Control Board Assam (PCBA) official informed G Plus that these are very worrying numbers as an AQI below 50 signifies that the air is of good quality while a reading above 300 indicates that the air quality is hazardous.
He further added that the air quality was worst between 7 pm and 1 am on both days, when the bursting of crackers was at its peak. “This shows that although the administration had put a window on bursting of crackers, most people disregarded the order. Even the push for green crackers went in vein,” he said.
The air quality was worst in areas such as Fancy Bazaar, AT Road and Ulubari. It may be noted that on any given day, the air quality level in Guwahati is at its worst between 6-8 pm as the pollutants in the air (PM 2.5) is recorded to be the highest on an average during 6 to 8 in the evening.
Officials at the PCBA have attributed the sharp rise in particulate matters in the air to the use of noiseless crackers like phuljari, kolgos and other sparkles which release harmful gases.
“The colours in the fireworks are created using metal salts. Calcium chloride is used for the orange colour, sodium nitrate for the yellow colour, barium chloride for the green colour and copper chloride for the blue colour. Use of these metals in fireworks can cause diseases in living beings. Sulphur dioxide causes sneezing and shortness of breath, cadmium can damage kidneys, copper irritates the respiratory tract and lead affects the nervous system,” a PCBA official stated.
This Diwali, apart from air pollution, there was no let-up in the noise pollution levels in the city either. In most parts of Guwahati, the ambient noise was found to be more than previous years.
The PCBA measured the noise level at three places in the city on the occasion Diwali, namely Panbazar (silence zone), Ganeshguri (commercial zone) and Rehabari (residential zone). It was observed that the noise levels remained close to that recorded during Diwali in 2018.
At Panbazar, the average ambient noise level on Diwali day (October 27) between 6 pm and 10 pm was 78.40 dB(A), against 78.50 dB(A) recorded last year. Between 7 pm and 8 pm, the noise level was 82.6 dB(A) compared to 76 dB(A) last year. The safe standard for a silence zone like Panbazar, having a number of hospitals, educational and other institutions, is 50 decibel.
At Ganeshguri, where the standard noise level should be 65 decibel, the average noise level between 6 pm and 10 pm on Diwali day was 71.50 dB(A), compared to 72.75 dB(A) last year.
In the Rehabari area, the noise level on Diwali between 9 pm and 10 pm was as high as 84.7 dB(A). Between 6 pm and 10 pm, the average noise level in the area was 79.32 dB(A), which is around 5 dB(A) higher than last year. The noise standard in Residential Zone is set at 55 decibel.
As news items are pouring in from other parts of the country, it is clear that the Supreme Court order was clearly violated. In Delhi, where the apex court sits, air pollution levels shot up from around 280 units at 7 PM on Diwali evening to 999+ within hours which was more than ten times the permissible limits making the air purely toxic to breathe. The Supreme Court order was indeed issued with good intent; it is we the citizens, who failed to understand it.