Pollution levels in Kolkata nearly matched that of Delhi today, with its air quality index (AQI) slipping into the "very poor" category. Official sources said the city's PM2.5 count stood at 356 around eight on the morning after Diwali, just 10 points shy of Delhi's 365.
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres. Exposure to these particles can cause premature death from heart and lung diseases, besides chronic disorders such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
Police have arrested 550 offenders since Tuesday for violating a Supreme Court order that only low-emission firecrackers be burst, and that too between 8 pm and 10 pm. Despite this, no clear reason was offered for the drastic rise in pollution levels. Some blamed the two consecutive nights of pyrotechnics, starting with the traditional Bengali Kali Puja on Tuesday, when firecrackers could be heard going off even past midnight in blatant violation of the top court order.
Incidentally, Kolkata's pollution had crossed that of the national capital on October 23 -- notching an unhealthy 245 to the latter's 240.
Central Avenue resident Soumyajit Dasgupta claimed that he has never seen so much pollution in all his years spent in Kolkata. "I live on the fourth floor of the building. The air was so thick with smoke that I couldn't breathe when I stepped onto my balcony," he said.
However, by early noon, Delhi had left Kolkata far behind as far as pollution levels were concerned. The national capital's overall index rose to 574, over 10 times the safe limit, and certain areas such as Anand Vihar and the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium witnessed the AQI skyrocket to 999, the maximum measurable level for monitors.