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Anti-cracker drive failed this time: experts

By Anjali Dhal Samanta

NEW DELHI, NOV. 18. Be it the weather or vehicular emissions, a look at the pollution levels on Diwali night certainly does not spell success for the Delhi Government's anti-firecracker campaign. Recording a sharp rise in Suspended Particulate Matter and Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter, the Capital witnessed a hazy Diwali evening this past Friday.

And while the Delhi Pollution Control Committee places the blame largely on the weather and vehicles, the drastic increase cannot be explained by just those two factors, claim environmentalists.

Even as the DPCC noted a decline in SPM levels at 16 locations, at 24 other stations, the SPM levels recorded a sharp rise as against last year's figures. At Janakpuri, SPM levels on Diwali evening were 4,366 microgram per cubic metre compared with 2,894 microgram per cubic metre in 2003. This is against the permissible standard of 200 microgram per cubic metre for SPM. At Karol Bagh, SPM levels were 4,177 microgram per cubic metre compared with 3,281microgram per cubic metre last year. Similarly, Mandawali, Greater Kailash, Lajpat Nagar, Motibagh, Nauroji Nagar, Vasant Kunj, Patel Nagar, Tilak Nagar and Shalimar Bagh recorded a sharp increase in SPM levels.

Another major criterion, RSPM also increased at half the locations, though according to DPCC, the increase was "marginal''. While the permissible standard for RSPM is 100 microgram per cubic metre, in most areas, it was more than 10 times the standard. At Moti Nagar, RSPM stood at 1,871 microgram per cubic metre while in Anand Nagar, it reached 1,923 microgram per cubic metre on Diwali evening. The RSPM levels recorded a rise in Rajpura Road, Mukherji Nagar, Mandawali and Lawrence Road. Certain other stations like Karawal Nagar, Shanti Vihar, Ashok Vihar and Darya Ganj recorded a decline in the RSPM levels.

Correspondingly, all eight locations monitored by the Central Pollution Control Board have recorded a drastic increase in SPM and RSPM levels. At Shahazada Bagh, SPM levels rose from 1,177 microgram per cubic metre in 2003 to 1,934 microgram per cubic metre in 2004. Similarly, RSPM levels peaked at 1,797 microgram per cubic metre in 2004 at Shahdara compared with 920 microgram per cubic metre in 2003.

"The adverse weather conditions are largely to blame. The pollutants were trapped near the ground almost in a tunnel like situation and this made the pollution levels much worse. Also, the number of vehicles on the road, including diesel vehicles, increases every year. As far as the firecracker campaign goes, we have been able to sensitise people, especially children,'' said the DPCC Chairperson, Naini Jayaseelan.

While DPCC has put the blame partly on "adverse meteorological conditions'' and vehicular pollution, environmentalists argue that these alone cannot explain the rise in pollution levels. "Winters are a challenging period in terms of pollution. In the period before Diwali, the RSPM levels ranged between 200-270 microgram per cubic metre. They increased the day before Diwali, presumably because of traffic, but if they peaked at 1,700 in certain locations, it cannot be anything but firecrackers,'' said the director of the Centre For Science and Environment, Sunita Narain.

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