India’s top court on Monday banned the sale of firecrackers until November 1 in the national capital region to prevent a repeat of last year when pollutants released by millions of firecrackers forced school closures.
The ban comes just ahead of Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights, which millions of Indians across the country celebrate by letting off firecrackers.
The Supreme Court said the ban would take effect immediately and added that the impact of the ban on the region’s air quality would have to be examined.
“We are relieved. This is an excellent first step in cleaning up the air in the city. Fireworks are one of the many contributors to pollution that has a damaging effect on the lungs of people specially children and older people, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, lawyer and father of one of the petitioners, told DW.
“But our fight shall continue. Our petition deals with several other sources of pollution that Delhi is suffering from.”
How bad is pollution in Delhi?
– Last November, about a million children were forced to skip school and stay home and thousands of workers reported sick after Delhi struggled with an alarming rise in pollution levels after Diwali.
– Diwali festivities leave the capital region engulfed by a toxic cloud of smoke and hazardous levels of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) – small particles that pose the greatest threat to lungs.
– A World Health Organization (WHO) report published in 2014, which examined pollution levels in about 1,600 cities in 91 countries between 2008 and 2013, placed Delhi at the top of the list.
‘A violation of constitutional right’
The hazardous pollution levels led to the top court imposing a similar ban in November last year. At the time the court had said that a complete ban on firecrackers would be an “extreme step.”
The judges were acting on a petition filed in 2015 by three children, below the age of six, whose parents argued that the hazardous air quality in the Delhi violated their constitutionally guaranteed right to life.
But the November order was briefly lifted last month, allowing residents to buy firecrackers ahead of Diwali, which falls on October 19 this year.
The children went to the court again asking for the ban to be restored.
Delhi traders termed the latest order a violation of their right to conduct business. They said the ban would lead to “huge losses.”
“(The) possibility of people buying crackers from other states and bursting them in Delhi NCR (national capital region) cannot be ruled out,” the Confederation of All India Traders said in a statement.
“In such a case, Delhi traders will be in a disadvantageous position and will lose business to their counterparts in other states.”
The ban comes at time when New Delhi’s air quality has already hit “very unhealthy” levels, according to New Delhi-based US embassy data.
ap/rt (Reuters, AFP)