India is among the most polluted countries in the world, and air quality in Delhi and neighbouring northern states normally begins to deteriorate at the end of September as farmers set off crop fires to prepare for a new sowing season.
Delhi recorded some of the worst pollution levels globally in its latest peak pollution period between October 2020 and January 2021.
“In view of the dangerous condition of Delhi’s pollution during Diwali for the last 3 years, like last year, a complete ban is being imposed…so that people’s lives can be saved,” said the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Twitter.
Authorities imposed a similar ban last year but many revellers still burst crackers causing a toxic haze over the sprawling capital region of 18 million people.
Kejriwal said he was cracking down on crackers much before Diwali so traders didn’t stock up supplies.
The comments come amid concerns that air pollution could pose an additional health risk at a time when the country is already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.
The emissions of the dangerous PM2.5 particles per cubic metre of air in Delhi averaged 30.74 micrograms in the first two weeks of September, marginally above the 25 per cubic metre level deemed safe by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
India’s environment monitoring agency SAFAR deems a PM2.5 particle level of 60 as safe.
Some Indian states have stepped up punishments for crop residue burning over the last couple of years to avert an expected spike in air pollution that brings smog every year during the low temperatures of winter as part of a federal drive to clean up Delhi’s air.
But local Uttar Pradesh officials said in August that India’s most populous state will drop legal proceedings against farmers accused of burning crop waste, a major source of pollution.
The state is set to elect a new assembly next year and analysts say the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to placate farmers.
The air quality in Delhi, the capital territory of India, according to a WHO survey of 1,650 world cities, is the worst of any major city in the world. It also affects the districts around Delhi.
Air pollution in India is estimated to kill about 2 million people every year; it is the fifth largest killer in India. India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma, according to the WHO. In Delhi, poor quality air irreversibly damages the lungs of 2.2 million or 50 percent of all children.
On 25 November 2019, the Supreme Court of India made statements on the pollution in Delhi saying, “Delhi has become worse than narak (hell)”. Supreme Court Justice Arun Mishra said that it is better to get explosives and kill everyone.
During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in India, the water quality of the Yamuna and Ganges river basins improved as industries remained closed. The air quality has also significantly improved during the lockdown.
India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences published a research paper in October 2018 attributing almost 41% pollution to vehicular emissions, 21.5% to dust and 18% to industries. The director of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) alleged that the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) is lobbying “against the report” because it is “inconvenient” to the automobile industry.