The Diwali festivities in Delhi often coincide with the harvest season and thus result in stubble burning. Both activities have serious consequences for air quality, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi said in a new study. These coincident events often make it difficult to determine the impact of either of the two on air pollution in the capital.
The study titled ‘Chemical speciation and source apportionment of ambient PM2.5 in New Delhi before, during, and after the Diwali fireworks’ led by IIT Delhi researchers sheds light on the sources of pollution affecting air quality in the capital before, during, and after Diwali.
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The researchers found that the metal content in PM2.5 levels rose by 1,100 percent, and the fireworks alone accounted for 95 percent of the metal PM2.5 during Diwali. “However, the impact of the fireworks plummets within about 12 hours of Diwali,” said Chirag Manchanda, the lead author of this study.
“Both stubble burning and the increased heating needs of the region in winter fuel the combustion of biomass,” added Prof. Vikram Singh, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Delhi, who was one of the researchers. The study thus concludes that the emissions from biomass combustion rather than the fireworks are causing the poor air quality in Delhi in the days after Diwali.
“The result of this study provides crucial insights into a topic of long-standing discussion and concern among air quality experts and policymakers committed to alleviating the extreme air pollution events in the post-Diwali capital of Delhi,” said lead researcher Prof. Mayank Kumar, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Delhi.
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The researchers found that biomass emissions related to biomass burning rise sharply in the days after Diwali, with average levels rising almost on the order of ~2 compared to the pre-Diwali concentration.
The source distribution results regarding the organic PM2.5 indicate a significant increase in both primary and secondary organic pollutants in the days after Diwali, suggesting the role of emissions associated with biomass combustion in the increase in primary organic emissions and, in turn, their outdated products after the Diwali festival. The research study published in the journal Atmospheric Pollution Research presented source distribution results for highly time-dissolved elemental and organic fractions of PM2.5 to address that challenge.
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