In 2016, Diwali festivities in Delhi raised pollution levels to their highest in almost two decades - forcing the closure of schools and other emergency measures. A "severe plus emergency" level AQI essentially means that even healthy people may suffer from respiratory illnesses on prolonged exposure.
After a slight improvement on Diwali, Delhi's pollution level skyrockets to "severe" levels on Thursday midnight. To make matters worse, bonfires were made out of fire cracker boxes, sending black smoke rising. The air quality was, however, better than it was in 2016 and 2017, indicating that the pollution caused by firecrackers was lower this year, said scientists.
While other cities across north India recorded AQI scores of between 300 and 350, the air was significantly better in central and southern cities - with with the air in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, deemed "satisfactory" with a AQI score of only 64.
A volunteer of the foundation, Sanjay Salunkhe said, "At some places, noise up to 114.1 dB was recorded".
Mustafa Mohammed, a student and cycling enthusiast, said he could feel the air quality dip drastically as he set out on Thursday to the India Gate in the heart of the city.
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SAFAR's data showed that PM 2.5 level was more than eight times the permissible limit, while PM 10 was six times the permissible limit.
The Supreme Court order should have come earlier. Once the PM2.5 level crosses 80 or 100 [micrograms per cubic metre], it has a huge impact on health.
This would have given time to traders to procure licences to sell green firecrackers, Sadar Nishkarm Welfare Association, president, Harjit Singh Chabbra, said. "Wearing a mask, using air filters and staying indoors may help to some extent, but the only solution is to reduce pollution at the source".
The indices mostly measure the concentration of tiny poisonous particulate matter, or PM 2.5, particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which can be carried deep into the lungs.
As Delhi's government's transport department banned the entry of heavy vehicles in the city from 11 pm on Thursday to 11 pm on November 11, the Supreme Court-appointed environment pollution control authority said it was monitoring the situation and will take emergency measures if the pollution level increases.