Ambient air quality in what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said is the world's most polluted major city touched 595 on Thursday morning, according to the U.S. embassy in Delhi which independently monitors pollution levels.
Delhi pollution is also expected to remain severe to very severe for the next two days.
Delhi has failed spectacularly in preventing the air quality from falling into the "severe-plus emergency" category the morning after Diwali. Air quality monitoring stations at CRRI Mathura Road, Nehru Nagar and Okhla Phase-2 were the worst-affected localities with AQI of over 450.
The Supreme Court has allowed bursting of firecrackers from 8 pm to 10 pm only on Diwali and other festivals. "Vehicles carrying essential goods are exempted", Joint Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Delhi, said. The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) reported a 24-hr average PM2.5 level at 450 microgram/m3 at 5 PM on Thursday for Delhi.
"This scenario is likely to hold the locally generated crackers emissions within the NCT, slowing down the dispersion, resulting in increased levels of PM2.5 and PM10 pollution", it added. According to the SAFAR, the moisture in the air on Wednesday was normal, thus reducing the pollution load slightly.
Sumaira Abdulali, founder of Awaaz Foundation, which has been campaigning against noise pollution for years, said, "All I can say is that the Supreme Court's guidelines were flouted, but the state government and its machinery tried their best to check people and adhere to the permissible time limit".
The capital's pollution hit emergency levels on Thursday, according to the USA embassy.
Dahiya said that while Mumbai's proximity to the sea and favourable meteorological parameters ensure that the pollutants clear out quickly "even a few hours of exposure [to such high levels of PM 2.5] is enough to cause health problems".
Twenty three areas in Delhi recorded "severe" air quality while eight recorded "very poor" quality air, according to Central Pollution Control Board.
The court also ruled that firecrackers could only be set off between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm, but their bangs were still reverberating around city neighbourhoods well after midnight.