Chennai’ pollution levels dip this Deepavali

Many toned down their celebrations.

With many people deciding not to burst crackers and others toning down celebrations, this year’s Deepavali in Chennai was a less polluting affair, both in terms of smoke and noise levels, when compared to last year.

Madipakkam resident Prasad Karanth said this had been one of the quietest Deepavali celebrations he had witnessed in all his years.

“Many residents in our locality burst a few crackers just for the sake of keeping the tradition alive,” he said.

Similarly, Tiruvottiyur resident S. Ambigaidas said, “We only bought green crackers. Heavy rain had been forecast, which was another reason for not buying a lot.”

There were also families like the Kumars, of Kilpauk, who did not buy crackers at all. “This was perhaps the first time that we did away with tradition. The boys said they would rather spend the money on something else. They have been saving up to buy gadgets, which we did,” Mr. Kumar said.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) said there had been a substantial decrease in the presence of various prominent pollutants. For instance, the TNPCB’s manual station in Besant Nagar recorded PM2.5 — particulate matter of 2.5 micron size — of 37 microgram/cubic metre in the ambient air. This was a 24-hour average.

Last year, the same station recorded PM2.5 of 58 microgram/cubic metre. This was true of other stations at T. Nagar, Nungambakkam, Triplicane and Sowcarpet as well.

However, levels of nitrogen oxide were higher than last year in all the stations.

The PM10 recordings ranged from 52 microgram/cubic metre to 111 microgram/cubic metre during Deepavali as against the prescribed standard of 100 microgram/cubic metre.

Likewise, the PM2.5 levels ranged from 32 microgram/cubic metre to 59 microgram/cubic metre, the permissible limit being 60 microgram/cubic metre for 24 hours, the TNPCB said.

It attributed the reduction in pollution levels to the directives of the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal and its own efforts to create awareness.

The Board’s report said ambient noise levels ranged from 54 to 69 Decibel (DB) pre-Deepavali (November 9), and 71 to 78 DB during Deepavali.

AQI at 98

The Central Pollution Control Board’s Sameer App’s air quality index (AQI), recorded across seven automatic stations for 24 hours from 4 p.m. on Saturday, showed that the city had an AQI of 98, with PM2.5 and CO as prominent pollutants.

Maximum levels touched 500 microgram/cubic metre in Arumbakkam around 9 p.m. At Manali, the highs were around 300 microgram/cubic metre around the same time. Velachery’s maximum level was 150 microgram/cubic metre, also recorded around the same time.

Timings not followed

Though the State government had stipulated that crackers can be burst between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., there was very minimal bursting of crackers in the morning. It was during the evening that people began bursting crackers, from 6 p.m. In most localities, residents said it stopped by 9 p.m., well beyond the time slot stipulated by the government.

Former member secretary of the TNPCB, K. Karthikeyan, said he was happy that the pollution values recorded during Deepavali were low. “At the same time, it is important to arrive at a geo-spatial distribution of pollutants in a 540 sq km area to plan the assimilating capacity of air to hold pollutants in desired ambient standards. This will create awareness among policymakers and the public on using the crackers at an appropriate time and area,” he explained.

Meanwhile, activists said it was high-time that the TNPCB began monitoring more stations for Deepavali and Bhogi. “They had procured equipment worth crores of rupees. We are yet to see that data being made public. Hopefully, by Pongal, we will see data from those 10+ automatic stations,” said an activist who did not wish to be named.

The Board’s report said ambient noise levels ranged from 54 to 69 Decibel (DB) pre-Deepavali (November 9), and 71 to 78 DB during Deepavali.

AQI at 98

The Central Pollution Control Board’s Sameer App’s air quality index (AQI), recorded across seven automatic stations for 24 hours from 4 p.m. on Saturday, showed that the city had an AQI of 98, with PM2.5 and CO as prominent pollutants.

Maximum levels touched 500 microgram/cubic metre in Arumbakkam around 9 p.m. At Manali, the highs were around 300 microgram/cubic metre around the same time. Velachery’s maximum level was 150 microgram/cubic metre, also recorded around the same time.

Timings not followed

Though the State government had stipulated that crackers can be burst between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., there was very minimal bursting of crackers in the morning. It was during the evening that people began bursting crackers, from 6 p.m. In most localities, residents said it stopped by 9 p.m., well beyond the time slot stipulated by the government.

Former member secretary of the TNPCB, K. Karthikeyan, said he was happy that the pollution values recorded during Deepavali were low. “At the same time, it is important to arrive at a geo-spatial distribution of pollutants in a 540 sq km area to plan the assimilating capacity of air to hold pollutants in desired ambient standards. This will create awareness among policymakers and the public on using the crackers at an appropriate time and area,” he explained.

Meanwhile, activists said it was high-time that the TNPCB began monitoring more stations for Deepavali and Bhogi. “They had procured equipment worth crores of rupees. We are yet to see that data being made public. Hopefully, by Pongal, we will see data from those 10+ automatic stations,” said an activist who did not wish to be named.

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