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Pollution control board banned crackers without consulting govt, decision will be reviewed: Himanta

A Pollution Control Board official told The Indian Express that the guidelines were issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), keeping the Covid-19 situation in mind.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: October 25, 2021 9:51:23 pm
HimantaIn its notice, the EC had reminded Sarma of provisions of the poll code and its instructions regarding ministers and the party in power. (file photo)

Three days after the Pollution Control Board (PCB) Assam issued a complete ban on firecrackers ahead of Diwali in the state, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said that the decision had been taken without “any consultation” with the government and it will be reviewed keeping “people’s sentiments in mind”.

“Assam Pollution Control Board has, reportedly, suo motu, without any consultation with Govt, issued an order banning sale of firecrackers & other restrictions. We’ve taken note of this. The entire issue is being reviewed afresh, holistically, keeping  people’s sentiments in mind” Sarma tweeted on Monday evening.

A PCB Assam official told The Indian Express that the guidelines were issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), keeping the Covid-19 situation in mind. “We have no comment on the government’s response to the ban. We are only answerable to the NGT. If we do not follow their directive, we will be pulled up,” he said.

On Friday, the PCB had issued a notification that ordered a “complete ban” on “bursting and selling” all kinds of firecrackers, in compliance with the directives of NGT in November 2020. It added that bursting of firecrackers “releases copious amounts of harmful chemicals, which have severe impact on the respiratory health of vulnerable groups” and that such pollutants can “further aggravate health conditions of COVID-19 positive persons”.

It made an exception for green crackers — under the guidelines, these can be sold, and burst for two hours during Diwali and Chatth Puja, and 35 minutes during Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

The board has also directed the District Magistrates, Commissioners and Superintendents of Police to implement the guidelines and asked them to submit their daily action reports to the board.

“Considering air pollution, as well as the current Covid-19 situation and the possibility of a third wave, we have all the reasons to be cautious,” the PCB official said.

According to the official, there is usually a difference in Air Quality Index (AQI) levels in Assam before and after Diwali, “especially in places like Guwahati, Tinsukia and Nagaon”.

In 2020, the AQI had risen by 65 points (from 108 to 173) a day after Diwali in Guwahati.

The PCB had announced a similar ban in Assam last year following NGT guidelines. Sarma, who was then the state’s health minister, had said that the government had not planned any restrictions on use of firecrackers during Diwali. “Like any other religion, Hindus have the right to celebrate festivals. With improvement in #COVID19 situation in Assam,we plan no restrictions on celebration of #Diwali including use of #Firecrackers,” he had tweeted.

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