Experts of the state Covid-19 taskforce have appealed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to reconsider his decision to not ban firecrackers. Dr Shubhash Salunkhe, chief technical advisor to the state on Covid-19, said, “There is enough evidence that bursting firecrackers adds to pollution. Despite the CM’s appeal to people to be responsible so as to prevent a second wave of infections, it is crucial the government does not allow crackers in Maharashtra.”
Salunkhe, who joined the Mumbai Covid taskforce meeting, said he had also taken up the matter in the city, and pressed for a ban on crackers, at least in urban parts of Maharashtra. “The CM on Monday had urged citizens to be responsible for their actions. However, we want him to reconsider the decision so the use of crackers can be streamlined,” he said.
In Pune and Mumbai, municipal commissioners Vikram Kumar and I S Chahal also appealed for a cracker-free Diwali to save cities from a possible second wave of Covid-19. “We are not enforcing any ban, but are strongly appealing to citizens to limit the use,” Kumar told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, a group of mothers, as part of their pan-India ‘Warrior Moms’ movement, have launched the #DhoomDhadakaWithoutPatakha campaign to appeal to people to avoid bursting firecrackers to safeguard the health of children.
Studies accepted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) show a correlation between Covid-19 related mortalities and air pollution. Also, a report released recently by Awaaz Foundation tested the chemical contents in firecrackers and found them to be toxic and harmful.
Pashan-based Anuja Bali Karthikeyan, a member of Warrior Moms, said their campaign (which started two weeks ago) received a major boost after the state government, in its Diwali celebration SOP, urged citizens to avoid crackers to curb noise and air pollution, which could affect coronavirus patients.
“We’re using social media extensively to spread awareness, and I also plan to visit the slum housing in my neighbourhood to show videos by doctors to educate children and their parents on the health hazards of firecrackers,” she said.
She added, “We have also initiated conversations with relatives and friends to spread the word. We’re sharing the reports of Awaaz Foundation’s tests…”
She said that with the support of mom bloggers and city-based mothers’ groups, they are reaching out to people to sign their petition and give a missed call to pledge for a smoke-free Diwali.
“We are already working with Doctors for Clean Air and…are extending help to those affected by the pandemic,” said Hema Chari Madabhushi, a Warrior Mom and resident of ICS-Bhosalenagar.
Dr Arvind Kumar of Lung Care Foundation and Doctors of Clean air, advised that in their zeal to celebrate a festival, people should not take their lungs for granted. “Bursting firecrackers leads to a substantial increase in PM 2.5 levels. It is a very serious health hazard…even for animals and birds. We cannot afford to let our guard down, now that the country is reeling under the onslaught of Covid-19, for which there isn’t a cure or vaccine yet,” he said, adding that air pollution can increase Covid deaths.
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