Flight operations in Chennai were suspended today for at least five hours due to thick smog and poor visibility. This was because Tamil Nadu began Pongal festivities with the Bhogi bonfire.
About 18 arriving flights were diverted to Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports during 4-8am. Additionally, no flights took off either. This left many passengers stranded.
Here's all about it.
What is Bhogi?
Bhogi is the first day of the four-day Pongal festival.
Pongal is celebrated in the South: Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Telangana. It's a harvest festival where farmers worship the sun and earth, anointing their farming tools with sandalwood paste.
Pongal's main objective is transformation and change. People discard old, useless furniture, clothes and household items. They are burnt in bonfires, signifying a new beginning.
What did the air quality data reveal?
Due to this Bhogi bonfire, the Central Pollution Control Board revealed that Chennai's air quality was "poor." It said the PM 2.5 levels were in the range of 200-250. PM 2.5 indicates particulate matter with less than 2.5 micrometers; these are basically primary pollutants.
Other independent air quality indexes like Atmos and Huma Lung Foundation revealed alarmingly high levels in the 550-650 range.
What does this mean?
The government undertakes various awareness campaigns regarding Bhogi's harmful effects. But, they seem to be falling on deaf years.
Now, healthy people have been advised to minimize outdoor activity. The elderly, pregnant and those with heart and lung problems have been warned to avoid the outdoors altogether.
Ironically, though Pongal is the festival of health and happiness, air quality completely contradicts these sensibilities.