The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday sent notices to 18 states and union territories to expand the scope of hearing cases on pollution by firecrackers during Diwali. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has already issued notice to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. The bench also observed that Rajasthan and Odisha have already issued a notification to ban the sale and use of firecrackers this year.
The NGT wants responses from the above mentioned states and the Ministry of Environment and Forests on whether the usage of firecrackers be banned from November 7 to 30.
As per reports, the panel has sought replies from Assam, Chandigarh, Bihar, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal as the air quality in these state is poorer than the permissible limits. The Tribunal has sought replies from these states on an urgent basis by November 5.
The plea on which the court issued notice suggested that green crackers will not solve the problem and the smoke from firecrackers will create gas chamber like situations.
The tribunal said, “The scope of proceedings may need to be extended beyond NCR so as to suggest that in all the concerned states where air quality is not satisfactory may consider taking action on the pattern of action taken by the states of Odisha and Rajasthan.”
It further added that the states might have to consider banning the use of firecrackers to protect the health of the vulnerable groups in 122 cities in 18 states with bad air quality. “To all other States/UTs where the above cities fall, notice may be issued by e-mail to the concerned Chief Secretaries returnable for tomorrow,” it said.
Several PILs against the use of firecrackers
The tribunal has received a plethora of pleas seeking a ban on firecrackers to curb pollution in the festival season as the air quality of several states is reportedly unsatisfactory. The NGT had issued notice to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and four state governments to sought replies on a possible ban on firecrackers from 7th November to 30th November in the interest of public health and environment. The pleas have also suggested that the poor air quality may lead to the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Targeting Diwali and firecrackers
In the last few years, so-called environment-lovers have submitted pleas every year to ban fireworks around the Diwali festival. It has been noted in several reports that fireworks are not the main reason behind air pollution in states like New Delhi etc. In 2017, Supreme Court banned firecrackers for some time considering ‘air quality’ though there was no report to suggest fireworks were the main culprit. According to a report submitted by TERI in 2018 [PDF], fireworks are not among the top contributors.
In fact, it had mentioned vehicular emissions, construction dust, and stubble burning among the main reasons. The states surrounding Delhi have categorically failed to take any decisive steps to stop stubble burning that causes a massive fall in air quality every year. Despite several announcements by the states and center, farmers continue to burn stubble, causing severe damage to the environment. Unfortunately, such aggressive and propaganda-led approach against fireworks on Diwali has destroyed the famous decades-old fireworks industry of Sivakasi and many other places.