With Diwali round the corner, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday imposed a total ban on the sale and use of crackers in Delhi and adjoining areas beginning from midnight of November 9 to November 30. The ban will apply to more than twelve districts across four states that are currently under the National Capital Region (NCR).
The ban has been imposed in lieu of the festival Diwali to prevent a further rise in air pollution in Delhi which is already in the “severe” zone. Environment Minister Gopal Rai has said that if anyone is caught using firecrackers during the ban period, they will be sentenced to 1.5-6 years. Earlier in November, Delhi’s CM, Arvind Kejriwal also announced a blanket ban on firecrackers in the National Capital following a high-level meeting attended by Chief Secretary Vijay Dev and the district magistrates.
“Reviewed the corona situation in Delhi and preparedness with Chief Secretary, health officials, and all DMs. Corona cases have increased due to festival season and pollution. It was decided to ban crackers in Delhi..”, the CM had tweeted.
The order comes after the Haryana government lifted the ban and allowed the sale and use of firecrackers for two hours on festivals, including Diwali citing the impact on small traders. The state has also granted permission for celebratory bursting of green crackers on events including weddings.
“We have noticed that coronavirus cases have been increasing since the time air pollution started rising. Haryana’s daily Covid case count had come down to 1,000. This has now increased to more than 2,000 cases. So, we took a decision (banned sale and bursting of firecrackers) to safeguard people’s health. However, for those who want to burst crackers, we will allow for two hours,” Mr Khattar had said. However, the relaxation may not extend to Haryana’s NCR districts of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonipat, and Rohtak.
The ban on crackers will be applicable nationwide to all “cities and towns where the average ambient air quality in November last year was poor or worse”, the NGT has said. Meanwhile, the NGT has allowed the use of only green crackers that are considered less polluting and will be sold in cities and towns where air quality is “moderate” binding the timing of use to “two hours”, as specified by the state given the Covid-19.
“If nothing is specified, timing will be 8-10 pm on Diwali and Gurupurb, 6 am-8 am on Chhatt, and 11.55 pm-12.30 am during Christmas and New Year’s eve,” the order said. In total, there are 23 states and Union Territories that were issued a notice regarding the ban, however, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed the ban on 18 states increasing the scope of pleas filed before it seeking a ban on firecrackers in the National Capital Region.
The NGT-headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had issued notices to the Chief Secretaries of these States by email and asked them to revert by Thursday before it hears the case again.
“The Tribunal may have to consider the direction to prohibit the use of firecrackers during the period air quality is beyond a threshold to protect the health of the vulnerable groups,” the Bench said. States like Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, and Rajasthan have already taken action regarding the ban on firecrackers.