Diwali sparks severe Air pollution in Himachal Pradesh: Shimla’s PM2.5 8.5 times above normal”

Shimla, Nov 14

Despite efforts by the Supreme Court and State government to curb Diwali firework celebrations, the serene state of Himachal Pradesh faced a pollution crisis on Diwali night. The state capital, Shimla, often referred to as the “queen of hills,” witnessed a significant violation of cracker usage, resulting in alarming air quality levels.

Notably, the authorities had banned use of normal crackers as only green crackers were allowed this auspicious night. However in dearth and knowledge of ‘Green crackers’ most residents ended up buying or using normal crackers thus fuelling the pollution levels higher for sensitive groups.

On Diwali night, the air quality index (AQI) in Shimla soared to 8.5 times higher than the normal range for Fine Particulate Matter of 2.5 microns. The town’s ambient air quality index reached 118, equivalent to the typical AQI of the industrial area of Baddi in Solan district.

Recent national observatory indexes revealed that Shimla’s PM2.5 concentration is currently 8.5 times higher than the World Health Organization’s annual air quality guidelines. In response to this severe air pollution, the WHO recommends measures such as reducing outdoor exercise, closing windows to avoid polluted air, wearing masks for sensitive groups, and using air purifiers.

Normally, Shimla records an AAI between 60 to 65. However, on Diwali night, it surged to 118, falling into the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category, affecting individuals with conditions such as asthma, TB, and chronic chest and pollen allergies. The PM2.5 pollutants measured 42.5 microns per square meter.

The industrial area of Baddi, known for high pollution levels due to industrial activities, typically records an AAI of 118. On Diwali night, Shimla’s pollution levels matched those of Baddi. The rise in air pollution is attributed to the poorly enforced ban on firecrackers in the capital town and its outskirts. Uncontrolled use of firecrackers in suburban areas made the town inhospitable, especially for vulnerable groups.

The IQ Air Index Report provided air quality figures for various locations in Himachal Pradesh. Nahan, the district headquarters of Sirmaur district, reported an AAI of 145, Paonta Sahib 143, Kalka (on the HP-Haryana border) 139, Parwanoo 138, Badi 137, Kasauli and Nalagarh 135, Dagshai 132, Subathu and Solan 129, Rajgharh and Santokhgarh 126, Arki 121, Jutogh 119, Shimla 118, Bilaspur 117, Chaupal and Una 117, Kotkhai 112, Jubbal 110, Sundernagar 110, Hamirpur 109, Nadaun 107, Dera Gopipur 106, Sarkaghat 106, Jawalamukhi and Sujanpur Tira 105, Rohru, Mandi, and Pandoh 104, and Nagrota 102.

The alarming levels of air pollution across the region call for immediate attention to enforce stricter regulations and promote public awareness to safeguard the well-being of residents.


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