The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday has ordered a complete ban on firecrackers in cities and towns across the country where the ambient air quality fell under the poor category or above (worse) in November. Furthermore, in places where the ambient air quality fell under the moderate or below (better) category, the selling of only green crackers will be permitted and only two hours would be provided for bursting firecrackers.
“We are also of the view that since we have taken the view that pollution aggravates COVID-19, not only crackers are to be banned or restricted depending upon air quality, all State pollution control boards and committees must take special initiative to contain air pollution by regulating all other sources of pollution,” a bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said. The NGT said that data from November 2019 would be taken into account as well.
“The cities/towns where air quality is ‘moderate’ or below, only green crackers be sold, and the timings for use and bursting of crackers be restricted to two hours during festivals like Diwali, Chhath, New Year/Christmas Eve etc., as may be specified by the state concerned. At other places, ban/restrictions are optional for the authorities but if there are more stringent measures under orders of the authorities, the same will prevail,” the bench said.
The order will come into effect at midnight and last till the 30th of November. The NGT said on Wednesday that it may have to prohibit the use of firecrackers in order to protect the health of vulnerable groups, alluding to 122 cities across 22 states and Union Territories which have consistently demonstrated a poor ambient air quality. The cities include Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, Mumbai, Jammu, Ludhiana, Patiala, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Kolkata, Patna, Gaya, Chandigarh etc.
The order passed by the NGT has the potential to destroy the local cracker industry. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, E Palaniswami, had appealed to states that had banned firecrackers during Diwali to revoke their order as it would impact the lives of lakhs of people in his state. With the order by NGT, his cause for worry appears to have worsened. At a time when politicians are preaching ‘vocal for local’, destroying a local industry appears to be a very bad idea.
Furthermore, such orders at the last moment would cause huge losses to business owners who have already made investments. Firecrackers during the festival of Diwali has huge significance for the Hindu community. Governments in India, unwilling to take decisive measures to curb pollution, appear to have decided to make firecrackers a scapegoat as a quick-fix in order to give the impression that they are taking the issue seriously.
The ambient air quality in Delhi has been terrible for weeks now which makes it clear that firecrackers are not the significant contributors of pollution. Under such circumstances, the ban on firecrackers has caused much anguish among the Hindu community. Karnakataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa was forced to walk back a little on his cracker ban following outrage.