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Delhi Firecracker Ban Sparks Controversy

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Delhi Firecracker Ban
Pavement sellers in New Delhi are all geared up to sell earthen lamps and other decorative items used during Diwali. voa
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As New Delhi battles deadly air pollution, it might be missing the customary fireworks during the Hindu festival of lights, following a temporary Delhi Firecracker Ban imposed by the Supreme Court on the sale of firecrackers.

The order has raised a firestorm in the city of about 18 million as it gears up for Diwali on October 19. Complaining that the order strikes at the heart of a quintessential Hindu tradition, critics compared it to banning Christmas trees on Christmas. Jubilant supporters pointed out that the top priority is the health of citizens in a city where the air turns toxic at this time of the year because of slower winds and colder temperatures that trap more pollution.

“Let’s try at least one Diwali without firecrackers,” said one judge as the court announced the order Monday. The Supreme Court ban is not new — it was also imposed last year, but only after the festival when New Delhi was already enveloped in a haze of smog.

Shops in National Capital Region are stocked with gifts and sweets as the festival of Diwali approaches. voa

The Delhi Firecracker Ban was partially lifted last month as Diwali approached, but it has been reimposed in connection with a public interest lawsuit on behalf of three children who are seeking the court’s intervention to better clean up Delhi’s toxic air.

Supporters of the Delhi Firecracker Ban hope the preemptive measure will prevent pollution from reaching levels of last year when air quality was nearly 20 times the safe limit set by the World Health Organization in the days following the festival. Many people became sick and that led city authorities to impose emergency measures such as closing schools.

Environmental experts, however, point out the measure would help at a time when the air is already saturated with pollutants.

India’s environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, welcomed the Delhi Firecracker Ban order and urged people to abide by it and “give green Diwali and our environment a chance.”

But there were sharp divisions. Some in his Hindu nationalist party voiced anger at what they saw as a blow to an age-old Hindu custom. Diwali is known as the festival of lights when homes are decorated with oil lamps, but it is also customary to set off firecrackers at night.

A popular author, Chetan Bhagat, compared the ruling to “banning Christmas trees on Christmas” and tweeted “Regulate. Don’t ban. Respect traditions.”

It is unclear who will win out on Diwali day — environmentalists, thousands of ordinary citizens and school children, who have conducted campaigns for several years to abandon the tradition and rejoice in other ways or diehard enthusiasts, who say the order has left the door open for them to bring in firecrackers from neighboring towns.

No one, however, including the critics, dispute that Delhi’s air pollution needs urgent attention. A 2015 study said that the lungs of half the children in the city have been damaged due to the toxic air. Doctors also link the dirty air to a rise in respiratory diseases and heart attacks and advise elderly people to leave the city in winter.

After last year’s experience, city authorities have put an action Delhi Firecracker Ban, starting Sunday to tackle any alarming rise in pollution levels. That will include banning trucks from the city, halting construction activity and restricting traffic. (voa)

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Indian Supreme Court Allows Only Green Firecrackers

The court said it adopeted a balanced approach providing a reasonable and adequate solution.

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SC permits bursting of only green firecrackers. Pixabay

Refusing to impose a blanket ban on bursting of firecrackers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the use of only green firecrackers with reduced emission and decibel levels during all religious festivals.

In its verdict on a petition filed on behalf of three infants, a bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan specified that on Diwali, firecrackers could be burst only between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The bench also provided that firecrackers would be allowed between 11.55 p.m. and 12.30 a.m. on Christmas and New Year while banning the bursting of firecrackers not conforming to the green norms. The ban would be in force throughout the year. These conditions would also be applicable to marriage festivities.

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People using Firecrackers to celebrate Diwali,. Flickr

The court also prohibited the manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers or ‘laris’) and specified that e-commerce websites should not accept any online orders and effect online sales.

“Any such e-commerce companies found selling crackers online will be hauled up for contempt of court and the court may also pass orders of monetary penalties,” it said.

The court said that authorities in Delhi would identify common community areas for the bursting of firecrackers and ensure awareness among people about it. It also recommended that other states should also explore the feasibility of community firecracking.

The court directed police station chiefs to be personally responsible for ensuring the compliance of its order.

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Delhi’s air quality drastically dipped during Diwali. Wikimedia Commons

The bench asked the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to review the clinical composition of fireworks, particularly for reducing the aluminium content and submit its report within two weeks.

PESO is the nodal organisation to look after safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport and use of explosives and petroleum.

The bench asked the PESO to ensure that only fireworks with permitted chemicals are sold and possessed during Diwali and other religious festivals as well as occasions such as marriages.

PESO has also been asked to test and check for the presence of banned chemicals like lithium, arsenic, antimony, lead and mercury and ensure suspension of the licenses of manufacturers of such fireworks items and appropriate disposal of such stock.

Firecrackers
The court also prohibited the manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers.

The court also asked the Centre and state governments as well as educational institutions to carry out extensive public awareness campaigns about the harmful effects of firecrackers.

The bench asked the Central and State Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees to carry out short-term monitoring for 14 days before and after Diwali for parameters like aluminium, barium, iron apart from the regulatory parameters.

“This will help in generation of data on pollution caused by the bursting of firecrackers and would be helpful for regulation and control quantity of aluminium, barium and iron used in the manufacture of firecrackers,” it said.

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The ban would be in force throughout the year. These conditions would also be applicable to marriage festivities. Pixabay

The court said it adopeted a balanced approach providing a reasonable and adequate solution.

“When the picture becomes clearer after the requisite studies/research, more stringent measures can be adopted in future if the situation so warrants,” said the bench.

While the Central Pollution Control Board described the order as a “balanced one”, lawyers pressing for a complete ban on firecrackers said the court order would be difficult to implement for practical reasons.

Also Read: Maa Durga And Cosmic Divinity

Filed on behalf of two six-month old and one fourteen-month old infant, the petition pleaded for banning the use of firecrackers, sparklers and minor explosives, in any form, during festivals or otherwise. (IANS)