Three Indian cities among world's 10 most polluted after Diwali

A view of Humayun's Tomb amidst the morning smog as air pollution levels declined in New Delhi, India, November 6, 2023Reuters

Two Indian cities joined New Delhi to be among the world's worst 10 for pollution on Monday morning, with smoke heavy in the air a day after revellers let loose with firecrackers for Diwali - the annual Hindu festival of light. 

The capital New Delhi took, as it often does, the top spot. It had an air quality index (AQI) figure of 420, putting it the 'hazardous' category, according to Swiss group IQAir. 

But it was also joined in the top 10 by Kolkata in India's east, which came in fourth with an AQI of 196, while the financial capital of Mumbai was eighth with an AQI of 163. 

An AQI level of 400-500 impacts healthy people and is dangerous to those with existing diseases, while a level of 150-200 brings discomfort to people with asthma, lung and heart problems. Levels of 0-50 are considered good. 

A thick layer of smog had begun to circulate in New Delhi from Sunday night, sending its AQI to an alarming 680 a little after midnight. 

Every year authorities impose bans on firecrackers in the capital, but only rarely do those bans appear to be enforced. 

Air quality in India deteriorates every year ahead of winter, when cold air traps pollutants from vehicles, industry, construction dust and agricultural waste burning. 

New Delhi's authorities postponed an earlier decision to restrict use of vehicles after a brief spell of rain on Friday brought some respite from a week-long exposure to toxic air. 

The local government plans to review the decision after Diwali.