Massive crop burning near NCR, air to be ‘severe’ again

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Diwali is the biggest Hindu festival of the year when firecrackers are traditionally let off.

In 2016, Diwali festivities in Delhi raised pollution levels to their highest in almost two decades - forcing the closure of schools and other emergency measures.

The Supreme Court's order, setting a two-hour window for bursting crackers, was observed more in breach than in practice during the Diwali revelry across the country.

All efforts to curb air pollution on Diwali went up in smoke on Wednesday in the state capital, which anyway carries the ignominy of being the fifth-most polluted city in the world, and the air quality on Thursday worsened to almost five times the prescribed safe limit.

Any reading over 300 is considered hazardous and a danger even to healthy people.

For a second successive year, New Delhi's chief minister has likened the city to a "gas chamber".

Another resident of Lajpat Nagar, who did not wish to be identified, said the order of the top court came out too late and and she can not forgo the celebration of the festival over it.

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The city s air quality typically worsens in winter, due to pollution from the burning of rice stubble, diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions, all trapped by colder air. These particles are about 30 times finer than a human hair and can cause respiratory diseases and other ailments if inhaled.

Forecasts suggest the air quality across northern cities will remain very poor till Sunday.

Dutta, however, corroborated Rudra's statement saying the high air quality index was not exclusively due to bursting of firecrackers, but due to present weather conditions as well.

Rias Ahmed, an auto rickshaw driver, said it was highly unlikely that air pollution was going to decrease in and around the Indian capital. Laying the responsibility at the doorstep of citizens, he says, "People need to see what the pollution level is and automatically act by taking a vehicle pool or public transport, for example", he says, calling for responsible behaviour, unlike the defiance sometimes shown by citizens.

An offence under IPC section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) was registered, said Prakash Salvi, senior police inspector of Trombay police station.

This initiative will continue for a few days. "We request our lawmakers to support our executive and all three arms of our democracy to work together to protect citizens health at this time of national health emergency", said Jyoti Pande Lavakare, co-founder, Care for Air NGO.

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