Firecrackers emit PM 2.5 and contribute to heavy levels of pollutants in the air.
With Delhi-NCR air quality already rated as ‘very poor’, the recent Supreme Court verdict allowing the bursting of only green crackers for two hours on Diwali has been welcomed by many. But will this measure prove enough?
Post the festive mood of Diwali, what Delhi-National Capital Region woke up to last year, was a blanket of smog — an indication of very poor air quality. And this was in the wake of a blanket ban on the sale of firecrackers in the region. In an attempt to curb pollution, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restricted the bursting of firecrackers to just two hours, and allowed only green crackers, but refused to impose a complete ban on the manufacture and sale of firecrackers ahead of Diwali.
The bench comprising Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan allowed bursting of firecrackers only between 8 pm and 10 pm on Diwali. They also gave a 45-minute window between 11:45 pm to 12:30 am on Christmas Eve and New Year.
Firecrackers emit PM 2.5 and contribute to heavy levels of pollutants in the air. And as per the Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi’s air quality is already ‘very poor’ with PM10 and PM2.5 as the prominent pollutants. Dr R.K. Mani, CEO (Medical), Nayati Healthcare and Chairman, Critical Care and Pulmonology, believes health and safety should come before these traditional practices. “The pollution levels in Delhi are so serious that we must advocate for a blanket ban. The impact is severe, especially on children. Delhi has the largest number of children who are asthma patients, the prevalence of childhood asthma is 15-20 per cent which reflects the consequence of pollution levels. The condition of patients with chronic lung disease worsen to the point of crisis during this period. Many of them end up needing ICU care and ventilator support. We cannot be callous enough to continue with polluting practices, even for a limited duration.”
The apex court also specified that only “green crackers” — which have low smoke emission and permissible sound limits — can be sold through licensed traders. And e-commerce companies will be held in contempt of court if they listed traders who sell fireworks online.
However, Dr Rita Bakshi, Senior IVF Expert and Gynaecologist at International Fertility Centre, feels that the concept of green crackers is feeble and futile. “Crackers are definitely impacting the environment as well as the health of pregnant women. Air and noise pollution contribute adversely to the health of the mother and child leading to problem in lungs, developmental problems, disfigured limbs and even impairments which might affect the proper growth of the child. Green crackers too shall unpropitiously subsidise the environment and the concept of green crackers is pointless and futile,” shares Bakshi, adding, “Keeping in mind the health issues of prospective mothers, the crackers should be completely done away with and must have a ban all over India. This shall control the escalating pollution levels of the country thereby giving birth to healthy and safer babies.”
Ashish Jain, founder and director of Indian Pollution Control Association, says that Delhi-NCR’s air quality is already poor and one must avoid any unnecessary pollutants through burning crackers. “Many factors and conditions are responsible for the poor air quality of Delhi-NCR which includes geography, wind velocity, house pattern, traffic, garbage burning, landfill, open construction, crop burning and firecrackers too. Firecrackers would be burst for a very short duration of time and in an ideal condition, it should not impact the air quality much. But Delhi air quality is already very poor with lots of pollutants from other sources and due to low temperature and slow wind speed, they remain suspended in the air. Therefore, we have to be very careful to avoid or introduce unwanted and unnecessary pollutants through crackers into the air to make it worse,” says Jain, adding, “In this direction, Supreme Court direction is welcome and must be followed.”
Classical singer and composer, Runki Goswami, who is a resident of Delhi, believes in doing away with the tradition of burning crackers. “There is enough honking and vehicle noise around. We don’t need crackers to add to our misery. As sensible Samaritans, the least we can do is control further air quality degradation by not burning crackers. Diwali is all about fun and bonding which can be accomplished without fireworks. If at all you want sound, listen to good music, that would do wonders.”
While many feel that a blanket ban is necessary, others are not convinced about letting go of the tradition of bursting crackers on Diwali. “Diwali has always meant a tradition of putting up lights and diyas, and bursting firecrackers,” says Dr Ekta Chadha, dental surgeon, adding, “I feel the Supreme Court’s judgment of not completely banning firecrackers is justified, Instead of completely stopping the celebration, preventive measures can be taken as suggested by the Court to use green crackers which have low emission.
“Also, firecrackers are burst all over the world for various kinds of celebrations and it cannot be said that it’s the sole cause of pollution in our city. There are many other contributors to the poor and harmful air quality, such as the various construction sites all over Delhi, the burning of waste, hundreds of trucks passing through the city, burning of crop in neighbouring states. I’m of the view that the government should take other factors into consideration as well. Diwali should be a joyous festival and should be celebrated in a safe and healthy manner,” shares Chadha.
Dr Gaurav Thukral, COO, HealthCare at Home, agrees and welcomes the Supreme Court guidelines. “Crackers are not the lone cause of air pollution and banning crackers won’t help much. However, every drop makes an ocean and the Supreme Court guidelines are a welcome move toward a less polluted Delhi. The nod to green crackers will encourage people to buy crackers that cause low noise and pollution. During Diwali outdoor pollution ends up being indoor pollution, people must use exhaust fans during that time to keep their homes more ventilated. Use of room purifiers is also advisable.”
People are still divided in their views on whether or not a partial ban on bursting crackers would serve the purpose of curbing pollution, but the present air quality of the Capital makes strict and immediate action an absolute imperative.