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Asia Minute: Celebratory Fireworks Challenge New Delhi’s Air

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

As many residents of Hawai‘i know from Chinese New Year celebrations, a long night of fireworks can lead to smoky skies. That’s especially true if there’s no wind. And that’s of particular concern this week in India—which celebrates an important holiday today. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


Diwali is the Festival of Lights, part of a five-day Hindu celebration marking the triumph of light over darkness. Good over evil. Many events are inclusive, especially when it comes to tonight’s fireworks across much of northern India.

They’re concerning authorities in New Delhi where the sale and distribution of fireworks have been banned for some time.

But tonight, the Central Pollution Control Board is taking extra steps.

It’s sending out what amounts to SWAT teams of environmental police, 40 groups that will fan out around the capital, on the prowl for fireworks violations.

The air pollution issue is serious.

Beijing tends to get the global headlines on air pollution, but New Delhi’s is even worse—and is a major long-term policy challenge requiring more than environmental police.

One air pollution scorecard is what’s called “PM 2.5”—tiny particles that are two and a half microns or less in width – thirty times smaller than the width of a human hair.

The World Health Organization says a density of these particles above 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24 hour period is not safe.

New Delhi’s average daily reading is more than five times that level, and has been for the last three years.

And that’s not even counting the fireworks.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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