The ban on the sale of crackers didn’t make much difference for Delhi and its air. This was revealed by the recent data of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) which stated that no significant difference was noticed in respiratory symptoms in the days before and after Diwali and Dussehra last year.

The CPCB in an affidavit said that the respiratory system related symptoms and signs were not much different during pre and post-Dussehra and Diwali. Although there was some increase in a cough and breathlessness, but this did not translate into any significant illness requiring immediate medical attention. Other system related complaints were also not much during pre and post Dussehra and Diwali. It also stated that air quality worsened during Diwali and there were symptoms of increased coughing that resulted in more hospital visits, increased noise levels and high metal levels in urine.

The affidavit was filed citing a study conducted by the Maulana Azad Medical College which reflected adverse impact of firecracker bursting. The MAMC study revealed that there was evidence of increased values of barium and strontium in urine samples of many subjects. These are some of the metals used in firecracker manufacturing. However, all other elements are not increased to substantiate the effect of the bursting of firecrackers.

Delhi and the National Capital Region woke up to a blanket of smog a day after Diwali paving the way to the noisy and relentless bursting of firecrackers till late night despite a Supreme Court ban on their sale in the NCR. The online indicators of the pollution monitoring stations in the city glowed red, indicating a ‘very poor’ air quality as the volume of ultra fine particulates PM2.5 and PM10, which enter the respiratory system and manage to reach the bloodstream, sharply rose from around 7 pm on the Diwali evening.

Real time pollution data appeared alarming. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) RK Puram monitoring station recorded PM2.5 and PM10 at 878 and 1,179 micrograms per cubic metre. The pollutants had violated the corresponding 24-hour safe limits of 60 and 100 respectively by up to 10 times. The situation was similar, if not worse, in the neighbouring regions of Delhi such as Gurugram, Noida and Ghaziabad, where crackers were burst as usual, raising question marks on the efficacy of the administration in enforcing the apex court’s ban.