Year 2016 has been a bad year for Delhi where pollution is concerned. The Indian capital has become synonymous with air pollution, as air quality standards degraded to a shocking low.
Blinded by festivities, the warning signs were ignored and Diwali was celebrated with immense zeal, only to wake up the next day and find the national capital shrouded in a thick haze.
The reason? Lighting firecrackers, which added fuel to the already burning fire. This Diwali left the entire city choking for want of fresh air and this was just the beginning of many upcoming problems.
Soon enough, the worsening situation made the authorities declare an emergency and rush to strategize for immediate measures to curb it. But, the elevating pollution levels had already made it clear that this wasn't going to be easy. Allowing barely any visibility, the Delhi smog was here to stay.
The blame game and finger-pointing followed with authorities piling the responsibility on the practice of stubble-burning by Punjab farmers, however, that didn't quite change the fact that Delhi's air was becoming hazardous by the minute.
A mere couple of days into the smog, Delhi residents began to complain of respiratory problems, which included asthma, allergies, infections, severe breathlessness, bronchitis, etc, along with burning and watery eyes, courtesy the toxic chemicals released in the air by the fireworks.
Delhi was crippling under the pressure of the worst smog to hit the capital in 17 years, where the measures taken didn't seem to be making much of a difference. It didn't seem safe for man or beast to wander outside.
Now, a month later, the pollution levels have come down but are still bordering on 'severe'. Here's taking a look at how Delhi grappled with the toxic air, which turned the national capital into a gas chamber.
Health alerts issued after Delhi suffered the worst smog in 17 years
Such was the impact of the smog in Delhi that merely 4 days into the hazy cover, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) asked the Delhi government to issue health alerts and convey that children should stay indoors as the capital was in a state of health emergency, thanks to the peaking pollution levels.
It was only after gauging the situation that it was announced that Delhi was experiencing the worst smog in 17 years. The situation was worse than what people thought, with pollutants breaching all safety limits.
Read all about it here: CSE asks Delhi govt to issue health alerts as city faces worst smog in 17 years
Future prospects for a clear winter season seemed bleak as air quality worsened
With low visibility and heightening levels of respirable pollutants PM 2.5 and PM10, the smog was showing no signs of letting up. Schools were being shut, construction work halted and the higher authorities called out the Delhi government for 'shifting blame' and asked them to work on strict measures to tackle the issue.
Throughout the entire first week of the Delhi smog, experts raised concerns over the high pollution levels maintaining the toxicity in the upcoming winter season as the air quality threatened to rise above hazardous levels.
Read the report here: Delhi pollution: Thick smog continues to cover city; air quality worsens - Watch
Delhiites expressed resentment; Center held meeting to address smog problem
As the first week rolled by and the air quality worsened, Delhi hospitals reported a rise in cases of breathing problems and asthma. The only good thing that had come out of the smog was that it had made people realise what they had done.
A report quoted many locals owning up to the mistake of indulging in burning fire-crackers and saying that the government alone shouldn't be held responsible. The air quality by then was 42 times higher than the safety standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Meanwhile, the government decided to call a meeting of the Chief Ministers of all neighbouring states to address the issue and discuss immediate, short-term and long-term measures to combat the alarming air pollution in the city.
Delhi govt struggled under pressure to tackle smog, as pollution levels threatened to rise
With the mounting pressure on Delhi government to curb the smog, the capital's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal suggested cloud seeding. However, the suggestion didn't go down too well with experts, who raised doubts over the implementation as well as the cons of carrying out the process in a large area like Delhi.
With cloud seeding dreams getting crushed, the rising pollution levels and the possibilities of the smog growing loomed large, even though it had begun to fade, but only slightly. The fears were only confirmed after reports of the smog making a comeback emerged.
Read all about it here: Delhi smog to haunt people again as pollution levels may go up!
After the smog, the fog makes Delhi its home; pollution at 'severe' levels again
As the smog in Delhi faded and gave residents some respite, it wasn't for long. The air quality came back to its severe standard within a few days.
The Air Quality Index hit 410, which means 'severe'. Dense fog which barely permitted visibility greeted Delhiites on the first day of December. Once again, this gave rise to the government scrambling to implement measures to combat the poor air quality.
As of December 2, there was no change in the view, however, the pollution levels continued to violate the norms set by the WHO, with the air quality four times the prescribed standards. Officers of the Environment Department firmly stated that Delhi was not witnessing another episode of the recent smog.
When compared to the readings of last year's pollution levels during the same period, the records showed no major difference.
The deteriorating air quality continues to pursue Delhi even today. Diwali certainly left a lasting impact on Delhi's air as well the people. What remains to be seen is what the new year holds. Here's hoping for a clearer and fresher 2017!