On Monday morning, two Indian cities , along with New Delhi, found themselves among the top 10 worst in the world for pollution, as the air remained thick with smoke following the celebration of Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of light.
New Delhi, as usual, claimed the top spot with an air quality index (AQI) of 420, categorizing it as ‘hazardous,’ according to Swiss group IQAir. Joining the list was Kolkata in India’s east, ranking fourth with an AQI of 196, and Mumbai, the financial capital, securing the eighth position with an AQI of 163.
An AQI level of 400-500 poses a threat to healthy individuals and is perilous for those with existing health conditions. Meanwhile, a level of 150-200 brings discomfort to people with asthma, lung, and heart problems. Levels ranging from 0-50 are considered good.
A substantial layer of smog began circulating in New Delhi from Sunday night, pushing its AQI to a concerning 680 shortly after midnight. Despite annual bans on firecrackers in the capital, enforcement of these restrictions remains sporadic.
Each year, as winter approaches, air quality in India and Indian cities worsens due to the trapping of pollutants from vehicles, industry, construction dust, and agricultural waste burning. In response to the week-long exposure to toxic air, New Delhi‘s authorities delayed an earlier decision to limit vehicle use, citing a brief spell of rain on Friday that provided temporary relief.
The local government plans to reassess the decision after the conclusion of Diwali.