In the News
November 4, 2021
November 4, 2021
The Hindu festival of lights — is one of the most important dates in the religious calendar in India, celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over oblivion. It is also celebrated by more than a billion people across different faiths around the world.
The festival sees families and friends get together to share conversations and meals, conduct rituals in honour of the gods, light traditional lamps and – certainly in more recent generations – burst large numbers of fireworks.
This latter element of the festivities has, especially in the plains of northern India, meant that Diwali comes with the inevitable drawback of an alarming dip in air quality. In 2020, the Central Pollution Control Board of India said that “almost all pollutants reported higher values on Diwali Day and pre-Diwali day.”
It has now become its own sort of tradition that each year the air quality in Delhi and the surrounding regions plunges into the “severe” category, with firework smoke adding on top of the already toxic soup of winter smog caused by factors including crop burning in neighbouring states, traffic pollution, major industries and a boom in construction work after the monsoons.
The air pollution crisis has led some Indian states including Delhi to ban fireworks altogether in recent years, or mandate that only “green” crackers with reduced emissions are used.
While Delhi – the most polluted capital in the world – and its surrounds are becoming synonymous with smog in the winter, experts say other Indian cities risk following suit if the crisis is not tackled. According to researchers from the University of Chicago, even in other major cities like West Bengal’s Kolkata, where the pollution is not so obvious, the sort of levels seen in 2019 can knock nine years off a resident’s life expectancy.