The fireworks of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, add smoke to the already polluted skies — and raise concerns about the impact of all that pollution on coronavirus cases. Here, a celebration takes place last year in Ahmedabad, India. Amit Dave/Reuters
Sushmita Pathak, NPR
New Delhi's air quality has already reached its worst level this year. And the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, which starts this weekend, is likely to make things even worse as the traditional rounds of firecrackers add to the air pollution.
During the five-day festival, revelers set off smoke bombs, sparklers and aerial fireworks that spew clouds of noxious gas.
"It's a very critical, dangerous week ahead of us," said Delhi-based environmental activist Vimlendu Jha.
The Diwali fallout is an issue every year – but especially during a pandemic. Research illustrates that polluted air is not only bad in general, it's bad for the transmission and severity of COVID-19.
Delhi's annual end-of-year downturn in air quality is due to a mix of exhaust from coal-fired power plants and vehicles, dust from construction sites and smoke from farmers burning crop waste. The pollutants linger in the air because the summer winds drop off. One 2018 study concluded that Diwali leads to a "small but statistically significant increase" in air pollution in India's capital. Read more >>