Track the pollution level in your city
The PM2.5 concentration in the city’s air rose so badly after last Diwali that breathing turned as bad as smoking eight cigarettes. In 2018, it was equivalent to smoking 12.5 cigarettes. Significantly, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board’s air quality records show that the deterioration of the air quality is rapid and vicious compared to a pre-Diwali day. Also, these are the 24 hours average of PM2.5 concentration. The hourly concentration figures were higher.
What happens this evening will tell us whether some of us have accepted the changed reality. Citizens need to cooperate with law-enforcement authorities and heed court orders. A single day’s pollution spike can contribute significantly to the virus’s case load.
Hourly PM2.5 count shot past 700µg/m3 in Kolkata in Diwali 2019. The year before, it zoomed past 1,100µg/m3. This year’s festival is happening in the middle of November instead of October-end or beginning of November, and the pollutants may stay closer to the ground for a longer period of time due to cooler days, explained WBPCB scientists.
There is a significant difference between the pre-Diwali and post-Diwali air quality. Data shows that on Diwali eve in 2019, the PM2.5 concentration was 28.1µg/m3. A day after Diwali, it rose more than 100% to 58.9µg/m3. Since fireworks continued even a day after Diwali, the PM2.5 count rose further to 175.6µg/m3.
“Data also shows that the city’s air fails to recup-erate from the onslaught. The particulate load starts piling up in the lower strata of the atmosphere and Kolkata’s pollution gradually overtakes that of Delhi,” said Somendra Mohan Ghosh, an environmental activist.
Particulate matter the size of PM2.5, which is 30 times finer than human hair, is considered dangerous since it can reach the deepest portions of the lung. It is declared a class 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and is also linked to heart disease and respiratory ailments.
“It plays havoc with vital organs. In fact, air pollution kills more people worldwide each year than AIDS, malaria, diabetes or tuberculosis,” said Arup Haldar, a senior pulmonologist with Woodlands and Columbia Asia Hospital.