Northern India chokes on toxic smog day after Diwali festival16 November 2020
Hundreds of millions of Indians in north India woke up on Sunday to toxic air following Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, after many revellers defied bans on using firecrackers to celebrate.
The capital New Delhi was blanketed with a thick haze, with the average pollution level over 9 times what is considered safe by the World Health Organization.
Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had banned the use and sale of firecrackers ahead of Diwali, but the policy has been difficult to implement.
Revellers in the capital let off huge amounts of fireworks well into Sunday morning, prompting angry residents and environmentalists to complain on social media of breathing difficulties and stinging eyes. "Our gods must be so happy today, that their followers burst firecrackers and choked the young ones to despair and death," said Vimlendu Jha, the founder of non-profit environmental group Swechha.
Some defended firecrackers as an essential part of a religious tradition celebrated by millions across the country.
"Are you realizing how all of India, all places stood up in defiance against the cracker ban? It's like a form of Hindu- freedom battle cry," Tarun Vijay, a leader of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, tweeted.