TWO DAYS after the Punjab government wrote to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) advocating that the state does not need to ban firecrackers in its non-attainment cities, it has decided to ban crackers in cities that had “poor” AQI last year.
The move came after the NGT on Monday ordered a total ban against the sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR) from midnight of November 9-10 to the midnight of November 30-December 1.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan told The Indian Express that the government will comply with the NGT orders, and “the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) is preparing a list of the cities which had poor AQI last year”. She added that the state government had already written to the tribunal stating that it did not feel the need to ban crackers, but if the latter had given a direction, the government would comply with it.
“We are checking where all we will need to ban crackers. We have monitoring systems only in a few cities. The chief secretary will take a call. The ban orders are likely to be out tomorrow,” said an official of PPCB on Monday.
The state government had on Saturday written to NGT that the AQI in non-attainment cities had remained in ‘good’ to ‘satisfactory’ range in the state.
The government had said that the matter had been considered by the state and the AQI in non-attainment cities of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Mandi Gobindgarh, Patiala, Jalandhar and Khanna, where Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) have been installed, had remained in the ‘moderate’ range for the months of January and February, in the ‘satisfactory’ range from March to July, in the ‘good’ range for August, in the ‘satisfactory’ range for September, and ‘moderate’ in October.
The NGT had on November 4 issued notices to states and UTs that it was considering banning use of firecrackers during the time air quality is ‘unsatisfactory’ with potential of severity of Covid-19.
The government had stated that it had notified the time limits for bursting of crackers as per the Supreme Court’s orders. As per the notification, crackers could be burnt between 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali, between 4 am to 5 am and 9 pm to 10 pm on Gurpurab of Guru Nanak Dev, from 1.55 pm to 12.30 am on Christmas day, from 1.55 pm to 12.30 am on New Year’s eve.
It has also said that after due consideration of the matter in the background of the pandemic, the ban on use of crackers was not required in Punjab. “Moreover, no part of the state falls in the NCR. But if the NGT feels otherwise, the state would impose a ban.”
Sources said the government had been internally discussing that if the NGT wanted to ban crackers, it should have discussed the issue six months ago and spoken to the stakeholders — cracker manufacturers and dealers.
A senior official was of the opinion that the economy was already hit due to Covid-19, and the manufacturers and dealers had already invested money. The cracker industry in Punjab is worth Rs 175 crore.
Punjab had been saying that its AQI was better than Delhi and it was doing much better than Delhi on the Covid front as well.
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