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No firecrackers for Delhi-NCR, says Supreme Court

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Fire crackers
Supreme court ordered banning the sale and stocking of firecrackers. ians

New Delhi, Oct 9: The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that there will be no sale of firecrackers during Diwali, as it restored a November 2016 order banning the sale and stocking of firecrackers in Delhi and National Capital Region.

A bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri, while restoring the order, said: “We should see at least in one Diwali the impact of a cracker-free festivity.”

However, the court said that the September 12, 2017 order lifting the ban on the sale and stocking of firecrackers in Delhi NCR will be back into effect from November 1. (IANS)

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Delhi Smog: Odd-Even Car Rule May Return; Consider Cloud Seeding to curb Pollution : HC

The court said that though stubble-burning was the "visible villain", authorities should address the "other elephants in the room" such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

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Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust. Pixabay

New Delhi, November 9, 2017 : The Delhi High Court on Thursday said there was an “emergency situation” vis-a-vis pollution in Delhi-NCR region and asked the Delhi government to consider vehicular odd-even scheme and cloud seeding to induce artificial rain.

The court also asked the Centre to hold meetings with Delhi and National Capital Region authorities to bring in short-term measures to control pollution immediately and to submit a report to it on November 16, the next date of hearing.

Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust and strict enforcement of construction code to ensure that the air was not polluted.

A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also directed the Chief Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Control to call an emergency meeting with his counterparts in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and pollution control agencies within three days to discuss ways to curb pollution.

The bench said the Chief Secretaries will also consider the feasibility of cloud seeding to bring down air pollution. This, the bench said, was not a very expensive process and Bengaluru had adopted it.

The court asked the Delhi government to consider bringing back the odd-even scheme — under which vehicles of odd and even registration numbers, with exceptions, ply on roads on designated days — to control traffic congestion and unclog the capital.

But the court questioned the government move to increase parking rates by four times.

“If somebody has to go to a hospital or buy important items, he ends up paying four times more for the parking,” the bench said.

The court said that though stubble-burning was the “visible villain”, authorities should address the “other elephants in the room” such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

“London has faced this kind of air pollution. They term it as pea soup fog, which is a killer fog. This is a deadly mixture of construction and vehicular dust and other factors,” the bench said.

The court also directed the Delhi government to conduct a survey of all hospitals in the national capital on availability of oxygen to deal with emergency situations with regard to vulnerability of children and senior citizens.

It told the Delhi government to strictly regulate the entry of trucks into the city.

The court was hearing a suo motu case it initiated in 2015 to control air pollution in the national capital. (IANS)

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Bengal firecracker industry won’t have a blast this Diwali

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By Roshni Chakrabarty and Arnab Mitra

Kolkata/New Delhi: Workers from the famed Bengal firecracker industry are facing a crisis due to the decision of the East Zone Bench of National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) to uphold a move by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) on Thursday to cap the noise level limit at 90 decibels for Diwali, even though a limit of 125 decibels is in effect in the rest of the country.

Recently, the Supreme Court refused a blanket ban on firecrackers, stating that a ban was not the proper measure to solve the pollution issue. It had, instead, directed the Centre and the state governments to give wide publicity to the ill effects of cracker bursting, including sound and air pollution.

Legal assistant Ujjal Barua said, “The NGT East Zone Bench has commended the state government on this step. They said that if the limit is increased to 125, then the state, which has an extreme pollution level would undergo a huge damage in these 3-4 days.

The workers from Champahati and Nungi, two major firecracker industries in India, said that the decision puts them at a loss compared to the rest of the country. The firecracker producers from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, another major firecracker industry in India, do not face any such restriction and can freely produce crackers catering to the nationwide 125 decibel sound limit.

China leads the world’s firecracker production at 90% and faces no restriction on an international level as well, thus supplying firecrackers to bigger events such as T20 tournaments or award ceremonies. India, on the other hand, claims 10% of the world market, of which, the two Bengal firecracker industries hold a 4-5% stake.

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WBPCB officials cited the extreme pollution levels in Bengal and stated that bursting firecrackers here might tilt the environmental balance. However, the major flaw in this decision lies in the fact that the officials are barely active during the rest of the year when the state experiences a lot of sound pollution from a party’s promotion on loudspeakers, any protest or movement, club events, or idol immersions during Durga Puja.

Would the bursting of sound crackers like shells, chocolate bombs, kaliphotka and dodoma during these 2-4 days of Diwali period really cause any grave harm to the state which it doesn’t experience otherwise? When these firework products are available over the entire national market, what is the point in restricting the sale in just one state?

High quality firecrackers from Champahati and Nungi are in demand in the all-India market for Diwali and Chhat puja. The WBPCB ruling has hampered this side of the business as well as the sound crackers form a large portion of the firecracker industry. The Sivakasi fireworks industry would be able to cater to the all-India market demand while the Bengal firework industries run at a loss.

Acting secretary of Champahati Firecracker Samity, Sankar Mondal said, “A ban really doesn’t prevent people from bursting the kind of crackers they want to. Every year you can hear so called ‘illegal’ crackers being burst. If recent statistics are seen, high sound level crackers are actually on the rise. If the customers don’t get what they want from Bengal, they just resort to getting them from elsewhere, such as from Bihar or Munger.”

Shankar Mondal
Shankar Mondal

While Mondal agreed with the fact that pollution in Bengal has been on the rise, he also added that the factories don’t halt production just because of such bans. “Most of these kinds of products end up in the black market at higher prices.”

Speaking on the people arrested almost every year for bursting high sound level crackers, Mondal says, “Nothing comes out of it, as most of the time, they are let free very soon.”

Sonarpur citizen Dr Kalipada Ghosh said that crackers start bursting in the neighbourhood even before Kali Puja or Diwali and the ban won’t change anything. “The local boys create even more powerful fireworks than chocolate bombs.”

“While the police don’t really concern themselves with bigger crimes such as stolen automobiles or other property, it is rather funny to think they would go to investigate whether someone is bursting a chocolate bomb or kaliphotka,” Ghosh added.

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Central government employee Manoj Shaw lives with his father, a retired army personnel in poor health. For him, the bigger issue lay in the loudspeakers which blare Bollywood songs till late at night.

They welcomed the 90-decibel limit but believe that the government should definitely look into the plight of the firecracker workers whose livelihood completely depends on the cracker industry. “A middle ground has to be achieved where the common people as well the workers are not at a loss.”

The Workers Union representatives said that the rise in prices of raw materials such as ash, sand and gunpowder has made business difficult as sales would fall if the product prices are raised accordingly.

The Champahati railway station is connected to the firecracker market itself by roads which are in an extremely poor condition. MP Sugata Basu has been notified of the issue but no step has been taken. The lack of proper administration and policing in the area discourages customers who might face harassment and robbery issues.

The workers state that the administration only creates a nuisance in the area. The police allegedly pay a visit for a couple of days each week and confiscates the ‘illegal’ items, but doesn’t pay attention to the other issues in the area.

The state government hasn’t come up with any aid or scheme to compensate for this problem. Workers have started to move to other businesses and, if this situation continues, within 2-3 years, the art of cracker making would soon meet the same fate as several other art forms.

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A single ban will not solve the pollution issue that the nation or the states face. Proper measures need to be taken in the form of continuous campaigning and awareness programmes on the evils of pollution. The government must take care of all sides and reach a balanced decision which would keep the environment, the workers and the customers happy.

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SC refuses firecracker ban, frowns on Centre’s inaction

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New Delhi: Refusing to order a blanket ban on firecrackers on Diwali, the Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the Centre’s failure to carry out its earlier directive to give wide publicity to the ill effects of bursting of crackers, including sound and air pollution.

The union government has not complied with the October 16 order, the apex court said, taking a dim view of the Centre’s inaction on the issue so far.

An apex court bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra asked the Centre and other authorities to launch a publicity campaign both in print and electronic media on the harmful effects of firecrackers during the festival season from October 31 to November 12.

The court reiterated its earlier order of 2005, prohibiting bursting of firecrackers during night hours from 10:00 PM to 6 AM.

“When we passed our October 16 order, we intended it to be carried out and advertisements published continuously,” the court observed as Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the bench that advertisements were ready and would be published before Diwali.

Apparently unimpressed by the submission, the bench questioned the efficacy of such advertisements. “You publish (the advertisements) one fine morning. When we passed that order, we intended it to be published continuously.” The court said the advertisement campaign would now begin from October 31.

The apex court by its October 16 order directed the central and state governments to give wide publicity, both in print and electronic media, to the ill effects of fireworks and advise the people accordingly.

That order also directed “teachers/lecturers/assistant professors/professors of schools and colleges to educate students about the ill effects of the fireworks”.

As senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for a toddler-petitioner, urged the court to direct that people should burst firecrackers at a common ground, Chief Justice Dattu said, “We can’t say that all those who want to burst firecrackers should go to Nehru Ground.”

“We can’t regulate the bursting of firecrackers,” Chief Justice Dattu observed.

“You are asking for an order which can’t be enforced,” Justice Mishra said as Singhvi wanted the apex court to fix some “reasonable time limit” for bursting of firecrackers.

Three toddlers – six-month-olds Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari and 14-month-old Zoya Rao Bhasin – moved the apex court to seek a ban on the sale and bursting of firecrackers during Dussehra and Diwali celebrations as it aggravated the already dangerous air pollution level and harmed them.

Counsel told the court that lungs of the toddlers were not yet fully developed and large-scale bursting of firecrackers during Dussehra and Diwali would further aggravate the already polluted air, and would be seriously detrimental to their health.

The three toddlers moved the apex court through their lawyer fathers.

(IANS)