Pongal, the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, takes place at this time each year. Part of the festivities is the burning of old items in a practice called Bhogi.
As Delhi witnesses each year, small fires across the city significantly contributes to the poor air quality. Today, Chennaites woke up to toxic smoke drifting through the streets and high levels of air pollution due to Bhogi. Today, Bhogi isn’t just about burning a few old possessions, it’s become about lighting fires and burning anything, including tyres and plastic which release toxic fumes.
The chart below demonstrates just how badly Chennai’s air quality deteriorated this morning when fires around the city were most abundant.
The air pollution was so bad today in Chennai due to the Bhogi fires that it has the undesirable distinction of being the most polluted city in India. Even Delhi’s poisonous air wasn’t as bad as Chennai’s air quality this morning.
It should be recognized that Bhogi is a traditional part of the Pongal celebrations and an outright ban on this practice would hurt the sentiments of tens of millions of people. However, the country cannot afford unfettered burning to pollute our cities more than they already are. The authorities need to implement public awareness campaigns in the areas that see the most prolific burning to educate the people about the dangers of burning open fires.