The Delhi government Thursday imposed a blanket ban on firecrackers, including those branded ‘green’, between November 7 and 30, with the city reeling under the impact of hazardous air quality and a steep rise in the number of Covid-19 infections.
The decision was announced by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal following a high-level meeting attended by Chief Secretary Vijay Dev and the district magistrates. “Reviewed the corona situation in Delhi and preparedness with Chief Secy, health officials and all DMs. Corona cases have increased due to festival season and pollution. It was decided to ban crackers in Delhi…,” the CM tweeted.
The Supreme Court had in October, 2018, prohibited the sale and use of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR, allowing only green crackers which are supposed to be made of less polluting substances and trigger limited smoke and noise.
However, the ban on traditional crackers, leaving the window open for green crackers, did little in preventing air quality to fall during Diwali in 2018 and 2019. Green crackers are supposed to be labelled with specially identifiable ‘green logos’ and bought by retailers from certain authorised companies.
Accordingly, the Delhi government had designated 824 spots across the city to burst green crackers. Delhi Police had also issued around 260 licences for retail sale of green crackers, which started on Monday. However, despite the partial ban, the city witnessed large scale bursting of crackers during Dussehra and Karwa Chauth celebrations.
The move comes after the National Green Tribunal had asked if use of fire crackers may be banned between November 7 and 30 “in the interest of public health and environment,” and issued notices Monday to the Union Environment Ministry, CPCB, DPCC, Delhi Police and governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The notice was issued after the Tribunal heard an application that said actions to limit pollution in the NCR are unsatisfactory if firecrackers are allowed, particularly at a time when bad air could have potential implications on the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Later, during a hearing on Wednesday, the Tribunal noted that Odisha and Rajasthan had banned sale of firecrackers on Tuesday. It then issued notices to 23 states and union territories that have 122 ‘non-attainment cities’ — where air quality is generally beyond norms — to take action along the lines of what Odisha and Rajasthan has taken on firecrackers.
On Thursday, it reserved its order on the matter, stating that it will be uploaded on the Tribunal’s website by November 9, while observing that the Delhi government has scheduled a meeting at 4 pm to consider “measures to be taken on the subject.”
On November 2, reporters had asked Environment Minister Gopal Rai about his views on the Rajasthan government’s move to ban sale and use of firecrackers. He had said, “Pollution is defined by airshed. Individual effort is not enough to fight pollution. There is a need to implement collective action. All ministers need to take cognizance of this fact. In Delhi, it was repeatedly being said that rising pollution levels is due to stubble burning in neighbouring states…”
Launching the government’s ‘anti-cracker’ campaign on November 3 and inspecting shops selling green firecrackers in Sadar Bazar area this week, he had said air pollution levels in Delhi have been high every year around Diwali due to use of firecrackers.
Rai had appealed to people to use only ‘green firecrackers’ which are said to have reduced chemical composition and emit 30% less particulate matter when burned as compared to traditional ones. “Delhi government will follow any new directions to curb pollution as and when issued,” he had said.
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