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Despite Supreme Court ban, Delhi’s addiction to crackers remains

Bans are wonderful, because they provide immediate action to people long inured to real change. But in the long run, they put people off and add to a sense of general despair and lead to the question, ‘Now What?”

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi | Updated: October 20, 2017 6:09 pm
pollution level in Delhi, Delhi air pollution, Diwali pollution, Delhi air quality drops, firecrackers ban, #CrackerBanHitOrMiss, smog, delhi smog, supreme court cracker ban, delhi news, india news, indian express news Unfortunately, several delivery companies and touts had found a loophole – evidently, the Supreme Court didn’t take the possibility of online sales into account. (Picture for representational purpose) 

That fewer crackers were burnt this year was clear from the relatively quieter Diwali evening many in Delhi experienced on Thursday. Unfortunately, several online home delivery companies and touts seem to have put paid to the Supreme Court’s order banning the sale of fireworks in Delhi and NCR, by finding a loophole in the sale of crackers – evidently, the Supreme Court didn’t take the possibility of online sales into account. Clearly, a mere ban will not stop Delhi’s addiction to crackers, even if they are mostly Made in China, or from celebrating the way they want to.

Over several years in the national capital region, school students have shunned fireworks after dedicated efforts by teachers and NGOs. They were not deterred by a ban but by dialogue. While such a dialogue, which takes dedicated effort, has been subject to several faulty slips and starts, traders say the ban did slow down business to a very large extent. But several complained that while they were willing to bear the sacrifice associated with the ban – even if it was so last-minute – because of the heavy health costs Delhi is being forced to pay, several pointed out that online sales had forced them to suffer a double jeopardy. Not only were their financial losses in vain, but Delhi’s air resembles a gas chamber this morning.

See Pics| Diwali 2017: Firecracker ban goes up in smoke, Delhi wakes up to blanket of smog

The statistics at several monitoring stations in the capital show a distressing picture. Levels of particulate matter (PM) are over 15 times permissible limits. While the permissible limits for PM 10 is 100 and PM 2.5 is 60 microgram per cubic metre, at India Gate, the PM 2.5 value at 10 am today was off the charts, a very high level of 985 micrograms per cubic metre. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee real-time readings has already put the air in the “severely polluted category”. At Mandir Marg, in the heart of the city, the PM levels were 355 micrograms per cubic metre. At Punjabi Bagh in western Delhi, the PM 10 levels were 1514 micrograms per cubic metre, more than 15 times the permissible limits.

Still, the situation was better than 2016, which from all accounts has been the most polluted year in five years in the week after Diwali. Of course, fireworks aren’t the only reason for this substantial pollution. Wind patterns in Delhi, vehicular pollution, pollution from industry, etc pollute Delhi’s air year the round. In winter, the effect is worse as higher humidity levels and low temperatures make sure that pollution does not disperse and stays close to the earth’s surface. Emissions from firecrackers add to the toxic mix and make the week after Diwali unbearable.

That the SC ban was flouted all across the city is no secret, but besides controlling pollution, another reason for the ban was to study the impact of fireworks on pollution levels. Scientists at the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Central Pollution Control Board are busy, as we speak, analysing emissions, wind patterns and other meteorological and physical conditions to ascertain if the ban had a positive impact on Delhi’s air. Initial data shows that while polluted, this year the day after Diwali was less polluted than last year’s for sure.

Moral of the story? Bans are wonderful, especially because they provide immediate action to a people long inured to real change. But in the long run, bans are almost worthless especially when they don’t really work or peter out, because they put people off, add to a sense of general despair, break-down systems instead of kickstarting them into action, absolve personal responsibility and lead to the question, ‘Now What?”

The family planning bans during the Emergency not only led to immediate disastrous results but also put India back several decades in the organic growth of family planning activities. Then there was the Delhi government’s odd-even-day motor vehicular ban, which fell apart the second time around because the car people found one or another loophole to marginalise it.

Certainly, there’s no alternative to a partnership between governments and its people in the implementation of behavior change, including in the matter of reducing pollution. Public transport is one of the best ways to do so, but the Union government has just hiked Metro fares for the second time in six months, causing a fall in ridership and putting more pressure on buses. Other alternatives include the banning of diesel generator sets, as well as cleaning up the city.

The Supreme Court offered one point of view on reducing pollution in and around Diwali. But now that Diwali is over, perhaps the Delhi government as well as the Centre could work together on this very pressing issue where the health of several million of its citizens are at stake? Or would that be expecting too much from both elected leaders, Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi?

Mallica Joshi is Chief Reporter for Indian Express. She tweets @mallicajoshi

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  1. V
    Vijay S
    Oct 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm
    Obviously Delhiites with so much money due to several reliefs like free bijali free paani less taxes cheapest petrol in India, have more money to s out. All politicians, sarakari babus, agents closely working with babus, how and why would they care for pollution ? What message do they give to rest of India, which a called Bharat. What court will do now ?
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      Atheist
      Oct 21, 2017 at 8:24 am
      Don’t be Apologetic about Diwali - Enjoy it In my city of Bengaluru alone - 4 lakhs Animals are Killed on Eid which includes 10000 Large animals like Cattle and Camels It generates 300 tonnes of animal waste which is just buried in pits near Kogilu on the city outskirts For 14 lakh Muslims in Bengaluru - 4 lakh Animals killed Even if one Animal weighs 10 kg then can an average person eat 3 kg meat on single day ? And mind you this includes kids and infants also So most of the meat goes waste though people might claim we give it to poor If you conflate this number to whole of India then imagine the number of Animals killed on the single day ? For 200 millon it must be at least 20 millon Animals And 200 millon kgs of Meat and staggering 8 billon kgs of Green House gases or Carbon dioxide and we are not even calculating the lakhs of tonnes of bio waste generated And now conflate this number to the whole world It is 200 millon Animals 80 billon kgs of CO2.
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        samir
        Oct 21, 2017 at 9:42 am
        Atheist are the biggest pollution on the earth.
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      2. A
        Atheist
        Oct 21, 2017 at 8:23 am
        Now let us come to ThanksGiving in USA - 45 million Turkeys are killed Christmas in US - 25 million Turkeys are killed In US 30 million trees are chopped off every year to make Christmas Tree Which is huge pollution And 50 million artificial trees are used which is made of plastic and is even more polluting On Independence Day July 4th USA uses 1 billion Worth of fire crackers which is 5 times more than what India uses in an whole year Chinese use more times more firecrackers on Chinese New Year alone that what US does on July 4 World wide on New year billions Worth Fire crackers are used Hindu festivals are the only Eco Friendly festivals on Earth As most of Hindus eat only Vegetarian food on festivals Other wise every other religion the meat is the most important item on a festival or any celebration.
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        1. A
          Atheist
          Oct 21, 2017 at 8:23 am
          But when it comes to narrative it is only hindu festivals which are being maligned as polluting Holi - Water Pollution so Waterless Holi Ganesh - Sea or River Pollution So Green Ganesh Dussehra - so don’t go dandia or no Durga Idol immersion Diwali - Air Pollution so no fire crackers Have you seen any one raising topic of Pollution on Christmas New year or Eid ? Has anyone campaigned for Veg Xmas or Green New Year or No killing on Eid ? So don’t let breaking India forces take the fun out of Diwali Let the festivals of lights Hindu festivals are green by nature as Hindus worship nature and all tHe festivals are born out of nature worship PS - The most comprehensive report on Delhi Pollution by IIT Kharagpur has not included Fire crackers in the report Road Dust, Concrete batching, Vehicles, Coal tandoors, Crop burning, industries are responsible for Delhi air pollution
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          1. Khushi Singh
            Oct 21, 2017 at 8:09 am
            देखिये दिल्ली में कैसे उड़ाई गयी 'Law And Order' की धज्जियाँ. s: /watch?v SwMo3xdR4GA
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