The two states had ordered that only green crackers be used during Deepavali, while courts had also restricted the time to burst fireworks.

Two hands seen holding sparklesImage for representation
news Pollution Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 16:46

Air pollution levels in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh saw a dip during Deepavali compared to celebrations last year. The Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments had ordered that only green crackers be used during Deepavali while courts had restricted the time that these could be burst.

The Telangana State Pollution Control Board (TSPCB) said that special purpose (Deepavali) Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) monitoring was being carried out from November 7 to November 21. Compared to the normal levels of PM 2.5 (51 μg/m3) in 2020, Deepavali eve saw the levels increase to 64 μg/m3 in Hyderabad. However, this was still a significant drop from 72 μg/m3 on the same day last year in the city. With PM10 levels too, Deepavali eve saw the levels rise to 128 μg/m3 from the normal level of 119 μg/m3, but again, it was a decrease from 163.4 μg/m3 last year.

The permissible level for PM 2.5 is between 0 and 60 μg/m3, while anything above 250 μg/m3 is categorised as “severe”, as per India’s Air Quality Index. The permissible limit for PM 10 in India is 100 μg/m3.

"The concentrations have increased marginally with respect to PM 2.5 and PM 10 when compared to normal day (7-day average before Deepavali). The wind speed is higher than last year providing for better dispersion," the TSPCB said in its remarks. "The concentrations increased moderately when compared to normal day and when it came to meeting the standards," it added, on Sulphur Dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen levels.

Compared to last year, the noise levels too came down in Hyderabad and Telangana. "There is a decrease in the noise levels in the day time and may be attributed to decreased activity in the day owing to Sunday and holiday (on Deepavali eve), while at night, there is marginal increase in the noise levels when compared to normal day," the Telangana PCB said. 

BV Prasad, Junior Scientific Officer, Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, said that the AQI (Air Quality Index) levels on Deepavali in Andhra Pradesh this year was much better than in previous years. The APPCB has real-time air quality monitoring systems set up in four locations across the state — Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Amaravati, and Tirumala. AQI levels measured on Deepavali on November 14 were compared with the measurements on November 9 to understand the surge in pollution caused by fireworks.

In Visakhapatnam, which is the most populated and urban area among the four locations, the average AQI for the 24-hour period on Deepavali was 117 μg/m3 (moderate), compared to the average value of 127 μg/m3 on November 9, indicating that the air quality on an average was marginally better. However, the peak AQI recorded at 8 pm, was 425 μg/m3, (severe). On November 9, the peak AQI was 290 μg/m3,.

“Since fireworks are mainly burst between 6 pm to 10 pm, the peak AQI values were recorded in this duration. But even these peak values were much lower compared to previous years, when the levels would often cross 800 and sometimes go beyond the range of the measuring instrument,” BV Prasad said.

In Rajahmundry, the average AQI on Deepavali was 113 μg/m3,, similar to the average AQI on a regular day (which was 115 μg/m3, on November 9). The peak level on Deepavali, however, was recorded at 503 μg/m3.

In Amaravati, the monitoring system is stationed at the Secretariat in Velagapudi, in a rural area. While the 24-hour average AQI on November 9 was 103 μg/m3,, on Deepavali, it fell to 74 μg/m3,, which comes under the satisfactory range of air quality. The peak value recorded on Deepavali, however, was 378 μg/m3,.

In the Tirumala hilly region, the monitoring system is situated at a location where bursting of crackers is negligible, BV Prasad said. The average AQI on Deepavali was 31 μg/m3 (good), while the peak level was 60 μg/m3 (satisfactory). On the regular day (Nov 9), the average AQI in Tirumala was 103 μg/m3, according to the APPCB.

Activists said that the lower pollution levels could also be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Due to the coronavirus, there was economic distress, and also lesser human activity, which lowered the carbon footprint. Many people, especially those with co-morbidities like asthama, opted out of bursting crackers this year for their own safety. A sustained campaign that activists have been running over the last few years has also increased awareness among the public," said K Purushotham Reddy, a prominent Hyderabad-based environmentalist.

With inputs from Jahnavi Reddy

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