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इंडियन आवाज़     03 Dec 2020 06:35:40      انڈین آواز

Delhi Air Quality Plunges to ‘Severe’ Category despite low Diwali Celebrations

WEB DESK

Despite the cracker ban, Delhi recorded “severe” air quality on Saturday evening with stubble burning accounting for 32 per cent of the city’s PM2.5 pollution and calm winds worsening the situation as they allowed accumulation of pollutants, weather officials said.

Shoppers in New Delhi had been packing markets across the country, prompting concerns among health experts who warned that crowded celebrations could cause a virus resurgence that could batter India’s healthcare system. But ahead of Diwali, messages encouraging people to stay home during the festival whizzed around the city via WhatsApp. “This Diwali is more about survival. It is about being grateful that we are still able to breathe and be alive for this day. Please stay home,” read one such message.

The air quality in Ghaziabad and Noida deteriorated to ‘severe’ category and remained “very poor” in Greater Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon of the National Capital Region (NCR). According to the air quality index (AQI) maintained by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 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’. The average 24-hour AQI till 4 pm on Saturday was 456 in Ghaziabad, 425 in Noida, 394 in Greater Noida, 378 in Faridabad and 358 in Gurgaon.

The link between air pollution and worsening Covid-19 cases remains mostly theoretical at the moment. But several researchers have said that in addition to factors such as mask wearing, social distancing, population density and temperature, dirty air should also be considered a key element in coronavirus outbreaks.

India has confirmed 8.7 million cases of the coronavirus, including 129,000 deaths. While it is second in the world in total cases behind the US, daily infections have been on the decline since the middle of September.

Though Diwali is typically celebrated by socialising, exchanging gifts and setting off fireworks, the pandemic this year is upending some of the celebrations, particularly in New Delhi, which has seen a renewed spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, recording more new cases than any other Indian state.

On Saturday, many temples across the country streamed prayer sessions online to avoid large gatherings. In New Delhi, worried residents opted for low-key celebrations. Some even stayed home and didn’t visit friends or relatives.

In a bid to encourage people to stay home, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and some of his ministers held a prayer ceremony at a grand temple. The prayers were broadcast on television and social media.

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