Delhi chokes under blanket of smog after Diwali celebrations

Indian commuters drive through smog in New Delhi a day after the Diwali festival.

Story highlights

Diwali firework celebrations left a hangover of smog across Delhi

Angry residents shared pictures of the acrid smog on social media

CNN  — 

New Delhi coughed and spluttered its way through the Monday morning commute after India’s capital became smothered in a dense, soupy smog.

Many blamed the large volumes of firecrackers and fireworks set off Sunday night to celebrate the Hindu festival of lights, leaving less than desirable conditions for miserable commuters.

Residents of the city, angry about the higher-than-usual levels of smog the morning after Diwali celebrations, shared pictures of the soupy air on social media.

“That’s how morning was for Delhi after Diwali,” posted one commuter.

It’s the “Diwali effect,” said another.

A barely visible vehicle can be seen in one tweet that says, “Delhi morning after Diwali.”

Why was the smog particularly bad?

In Delhi, smoke from fireworks contains a high concentration of tiny pollution particles called PM2.5, or “fine particle pollution,” said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

These are small enough to be inhaled into the lungs and are particularly dangerous, he said. The Air Quality Index for PM2.5, measured at the US Embassy in Delhi, has been at 300 (considered hazardous) each day for the past week but reached 999 Sunday evening and literally went off the charts through midday Monday. It was more than double any of the previous days and likely a result of the Diwali fireworks and other celebratory fires.

The weather did not help matters. Higher pressure and calmer winds led to sinking air, keeping the pollutants trapped near the surface. These conditions are especially prevalent during autumn and winter in northern India, which is one of the reasons pollution is so bad in the region, Miller said.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution causes more than 3 million deaths a year and India is among the two most-polluted countries in the world. The Ministry for Science and Technology in India described the air quality after the festival celebrations in Delhi as “severe.”