New Delhi: The policy to ban fireworks during Diwali has proved to be effective as it improves the air quality of all the states in the Indo-Gangetic plains, according to researchers.
In a statement, researchers from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh and the Panjab University (PU) said the fireworks ban, a policy implemented to improve the air quality of the states of the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) during the 2020 Diwali festival, turned out to be very effective.
The major states covered in a study included Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The region is known for its poor air quality, especially in October and November when stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana adds to the deteriorating air quality of the Indo-Gangetic Plains.
The region is also considered an air pollution hotspot in South Asia.
One of the researchers, Suman Mor, said they assessed the air quality of all the IGP states during Diwali from 2017 to 2020 and found out that bursting firecrackers degrades the air quality. The worst air quality was observed in Delhi, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
”Burning fireworks increases the concentration of PM2.5, sulfur dioxide and other criteria pollutants above the safe standards on the Diwali night and the next few days,” Mor said.
The researchers have highlighted that the rate of increase of PM2.5 and sulfer dioxide slowed down by around 42 per cent and 67 per cent on the Diwali night in 2020 as compared to the 2017-2019 average rate of increase. Ozone did not show any significant increase on the Diwali night and hence, it goes against the earlier belief that fireworks emit ozone, the researchers said.
Sahil, a research scholar at the department of environment studies in the Panjab University, said open data from the Continuous Air Quality Monitoring Station established by various state pollution control boards was used to compute the impact of the ban on Diwali fireworks.
”We also monitored the stubble burning in all the states during the Diwali period and the highest fire counts were observed in Punjab, followed by Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. Severe air quality could be observed in all the states when stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana peaked during Diwali,” Ravindra Khaiwal, professor of environmental health at PGIMER, said.
He stressed that the ban on Diwali fireworks has been imposed in Delhi since 2017 but had a negligible positive effect and highlighted that in 2020, all the IGP states implemented the policy on Diwali, which showed a positive impact on the air quality.
Khaiwal further said strict compliance with effective policies in all the states is required to improve the air quality during extreme air pollution episodes, rather than implementing different policies in different forms.
”Diwali is the festival of lights and over time, firecrackers have become a part of it. However, considering the environmental health impacts, there is a need to limit the use of firecrackers or replace those with green crackers,” he said.