The Southern city of Chennai, despite being on the coastal belt, broke all records on the day of Diwali, with suspended particulate matter levels exceeding those in Delhi. The city witnessed an unusual spike in the PM 2.5 levels owing to a toxic mix of emissions from vehicles, garbage burning, power plants in Ennore and the smoke from the fireworks. The particulate matter levels peaked at 1000 plus, which is equivalent to 18 times the Indian safety limits. The peaking levels along with the humidity made it difficult for the pollution to disperse, leaving the city in a state of red alert.

Despite constant eye burns and difficulty in driving because of the ash and small residue particles from the crackers, these riders did not take to helmets and masks on Diwali. Mylapore, Chennai, 18 Oct, 2017. Photo credit: Shuchi Kapoor/Chennai
Man walks down a street covering and shielding his ears from a loud noise as a cracker goes off nearby. Photo credit: Shuchi Kapoor/Chennai
Ther was no respite from the toxic smoke in most areas in Chennai on Diwali. Purasawalkam, Chennai, 18 Oct 2017. Photo credit:Shuchi Kapoor/Chennai
A family bursting crackers, while pollutions levels began to spike in Chennai. Photo credit: Shuchi Kapoor/Chennai


Bengaluru, once the garden city, is today a city with unmanageable traffic and the resultant air pollution. Waste burning and badly-managed roadworks have had an effect on the city’s air for a while now. However, in comparison to most metros, Bengaluru despite its bold display of fireworks on Diwali, seemed to have recorded relatively good air quality. The pollution charts did peak for a brief period across the city and were above the safety norms but continued to remain better than others. One of the reasons for this could also be the persistent and incessant rains the city has been witnessing over the last few weeks.

The construction of a flyover is adding to the pollution on the Hennur Main Road close to the Hennur junction. Photo credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam/ Bengaluru
Diwali celebrations in the bylanes of Kalyan Nagar. Photo credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam/ Bengaluru
HBR 5th Block, off the Outer Ring Road very close to Manyata Tech Park. Photo credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam/ Bengaluru


The air quality in Delhi began to peak after October 13, with the Air Quality Index dipping from poor to very poor levels. The Graded Responsibility Action Plan, introduced last winter, was to be implemented along with the Supreme Courtís ban on sale of fireworks. In addition, there was a blanket ban on the use of all diesel generator sets and the Badarpur power plant was closed. Despite these measures, on the night of the October 19, most stations in the city touched 999 micrograms per cubic metre, more than 16 times the Indian Safety Standards and close to 40 times the World Health Organisation safety limits. The first three photos below on the morning of October 20 show that the smog had refused to lift its veil, leaving the residents of the city with a sense of hopelessness.

Haze of pollution across Yamuna. Photo credit: Sayantoni Palchoudhuri/Delhi
India gate covered in smog on the morning after Diwali celebrations in New Delhi. Photo credit: Sayantoni Palchoudhuri/Delhi
Early morning commuters in central Delhi, the morning after Diwali. Photo credit: Sayantoni Palchoudhuri/Delhi
Waste pickers on Ghazipur landfill, New Delhi, October 17, 2017. Photo credit: Sayantoni Palchoudhuri/Delhi


The quintessential yellow taxis make Kolkata one of the most polluted parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Despite the scale of its population, the city has only one online monitoring station to monitor air pollution. According to data collected by the Central†Pollution†Control Board,†Kolkata, along with Delhi, is among the worst affected Indian cities when it comes to†air pollution. The city did experience its share of pollution on the Diwali night, however the lack of air quality monitoring information makes it hard to quantify the extent of pollution in the city.

A man looks at the smoke coming out from his shop in North Kolkata. Photo credit: Ronny Sen/Kolkata
A street vendor trying to light his makeshift earthen stove in Sealdah in Kolkata. Photo credit: Ronny Sen/Kolkata
Diwali celebration in Bhawanipore area in Kolkata. Photo credit: Ronny Sen/Kolkata
Diwali celebration in Survey Park area in Kolkata. Photo credit: Ronny Sen/Kolkata