Delhi air quality reaches dangerous levels after Diwali celebrations

ITV News Asia correspondent Debi Edward hears how newborn babies take their first breath of air, polluted by the equivalent of 20 cigarettes

Residents of india the capital woke up to a blanket of toxic smog, breathing dangerous air on Friday morning after Diwali celebrations last night.

A doctor told ITV News the levels were so high that for babies born in Delhi on Friday, they breathed the equivalent of more than 20 cigarettes.

The city already has one of the worst air qualities in the world, but Friday had its highest reading of the year as people defied the fireworks ban and celebrated the festival late Thursday night.

After the terrible Covid losses the country suffered this year, many felt added significance for this Hindu festival celebrating light and new beginnings.

Millions of people defied fireworks ban to celebrate Diwali Credit: PA

But the next morning, the capital suffocated as the Air Quality Index (AQI) – which measures the concentration of toxic particles on a scale of zero to 300 and above – was recorded by ITV News at a staggering figure of 502.

A good reading is between 0 and 50 and up to 100 is “satisfactory”.

It indicates “serious” conditions that can affect even healthy people and especially those with existing respiratory illnesses.

Residents complained of an itchy throat and watery eyes.

The thick layer of smog also wreaked havoc on the roads, with cars and buildings barely visible.

The government tries to ban fireworks every year, but these are rarely enforced.

It’s not just Diwali that is responsible for the poisonous air that kills over a million Indians every year.

These are the deadly gases from diesel generators, cars and coal-fired power stations as well as crop stubble burned by farmers.

Credit: PA

A doctor told ITV News that he now regularly sees patients suffering from the effects of toxic air.

Dr Arvind Kumar said his chest patients were mainly smokers, now he treats children with lungs congested with pollution.

The doctor said children born in Delhi on Friday would breathe the equivalent of more than 20 cigarettes on their first day of life.

Children born in Delhi on Friday inhale more than 20 cigarettes of toxic air

India is the third biggest polluter in the world and for CO2 emissions, behind only the United States of America and China.

Authorities there have been criticized for not doing enough to tackle pollution and air quality.

On Monday, the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow that India is the only major economy to keep its promises.

He added that India to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2070 – two decades after the date fixed by the other countries.

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