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NGT order on Cracker ban : To burst or not to burst, States divided amid triggering pandemic

  • INDIA
  • Vishnu Vardhan | Team PresentMirror | Updated: Nov. 13, 2020, 11:24 a.m.




As Diwali approaches, the excitement to celebrate the festival of lights is marred by a huge concern as this Diwali has a threatening pandemic. Experts opine that more pollution will favour the virus spread, as it directly affects ACE2 receptors in lungs. Several states have banned firecrackers, reasoning the effects of the pandemic, while few states have refused to comply on the NGT order, citing one day ban to be ineffective.


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As Vocal for Local slogan given by the Prime Minister reverberate across the country, cracker manufacturers face a blanket ban of sale on crackers in various states. While ecofriendly options like Diyas made out of cow Panchgavya (Five elements) is gaining momentum in the Indian markets, the cracker ban has been met with mixed response. The anti-Chinese sentiments are further affecting the sale of crackers in the Indian state, however even the local manufacturers of Maharashtra and Hyderabad have been affected and Traders have chosen to move to courts in the wake of the nationwide ban.

organic_lamp Image File : Panchgavya cow dung Diyas made by Janjatis of RSS in Bangalore.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday directed that there would be a total ban on sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers between November 10 and 30 in all cities and towns across the country where the average ambient air quality in November fell under the ‘poor’ and above category.

covidreport Image File : NGT order directing the ban.

These are the states which banned firecrackers

The chairman of NGT sent notices to 18 states and UTs including Punjab and Assam. Odisha, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Sikkim, Delhi, West Bengal and Tripura have completely banned crackers.

Delhi

The Delhi govt led by Arvind Kejriwal has imposed a ban on firecrackers between 7th-30 th November after a meeting with Chief Secretary Vijay Dev and the district magistrates. Diwali hasn't started yet, but the state's Air quality worsened on Tuesday, as resident's woke up to a pm10 AQI of 700+ in parts of the city.

As soon as the Autumn starts the air Quality in Delhi gets worsening. But notably the blame goes on the farmers of the states adjoining Delhi for burning of the agricultural residue. In addition to that hundreds of firecrackers are burst, even after knowing the dangerous effects they have on health, which results in the city turning into a Gas Chamber.

Rajasthan

The Congress-led government forbidden the sale of firecrackers in the state and issued orders on 1st November.

After Rajasthan, Odisha, Delhi and Karnataka have also banned fireworks during Diwali because a pandemic affects people across religions. It is evident that pollution after fireworks will worsen coronavirus. Ban on crackers goes beyond religious affiliations and it is in the larger interest of mankind," Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said.

The Ashok Gehlot government administration had also decided to impose a penalty of Rs 10,000 to the person who sells amid the ban. And a person who is found using will have to give Rs 2000 as penalty for their actions.

West Bengal

West Bengal is going to celebrate crackers free Kali Puja, Chhath and Kartik Puja as the Calcutta High Court prohibited selling and bursting of firecrackers to curb pollution amid the Covid-19 pandemic which brought us to a new normal.

The West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and several other leaders have also appealed to the residents not to refrain from burning firecrackers due to health concerns.

Maharashtra

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation led by Shiv-Sena has enforced a ban on bursting of firecrackers, citing the effects of smoke and other pollutants on the health of COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra CM said, “I don’t want to impose an emergency by banning firecrackers. But I am placing my trust in you. Diwali is the festival of lights and you must avoid crowds and pollution. Don’t let coronavirus come in through the doors that you open for happiness and prosperity,” he added.

However the government made few relaxations for the people to burst a finite number of firecrackers such as 'Fuljhadi' and 'anar' on the evening of Laxmi Pujan on 14th November.

Sikkim

In the wake of Covid-19 crisis in the country, the Sikkim government imposed a blanket ban on the use of firecrackers throughout the state.

The Chief Secretary S C Gupta had issued an order under provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, to impose a complete ban on bursting of firecrackers in the state until further orders.

Odisha

On 3rd November, Naveen Patnaik issued a ban on bursting and the sale of firecrackers across the state during Diwali festival to halt the rise of Air Pollution which can have a serious impact on COVID-19.

The Chief secretary A K Tripathy, clarified that the government made this move, as winter is approaching and the bursting of firecrackers will have a dangerous effect amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Uttar Pradesh

“Sale/use of all kinds of fire crackers banned in NCR - Muzaffarnagar, Agra, Varanasi, Meerut, Hapur, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Moradabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Baghpat, Bulandshahr - from midnight Nov 9-10 to midnight of Nov 30-Dec 1, to be reviewd thereafter.” Said CMO UP, quoting ANI.

States which haven’t had banned Firecrackers

Meanwhile, The Assam and Punjab Governments will light up crackers for this Diwali as they rejected the orders from National Green Tribunal to ban firecrackers.

Haryana

After necessary outrage from their supporters, Haryana has allowed bursting of crackers during specific time.

“As per the directive, city residents are allowed to burst crackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on November 14. A ban has been put on the sale, purchase or bursting of “series crackers” also known as “Lari”, as it spreads more air and noise pollution”, said Haryana government officials.

Madhya Pradesh

Many states strictly prohibited the use and sale of firecrackers for this Diwali festival in the view of Coronavirus pandemic as well to curb the Air Pollution. But the Shivraj Singh led government isn't on the same lines, as the CM responded to a Twitter user who was excited to know if mamaji has got any plans?

Madhya Pradesh is a state of happiness. We never ban happiness here. There is no restriction on firecrackers in the state.

“Yes, there is a ban on Chinese firecrackers. Celebrate the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, burst firecrackers and celebrate Diwali with great fervour,” Chouhan tweeted on 9th November.



Karnataka

The silicon valley of India also joined the roster as Chief Minister of Karnataka announced a ban on the usage of firecrackers in the state on 6th November.

We have discussed the issue of banning crackers during Diwali season and have decided to prohibit its use. A government order will be issued shortly, Yediyurappa said.
The move by the Government came as the result of prevailing Covid-19 situation in the state. However, after an outrage the government has allowed specific green crackers which produce less pollution.




Goa

Goa BJP chief Vinay Tendulkar said that such move in Goa was unnecessary as ban for one day cannot improve air quality. Goa will not ban crackers on Diwali.

Meanwhile Tamil Nadu CM has written to various states for reconsidering blanket ban on crackers. “I would like to bring to your kind notice that Tamil Nadu produces mainly green crackers and therefore the question of environmental pollution does not arise. There is no empirical or validated data to demonstrate that the bursting of crackers has an effect on COVID patients. I, therefore, request you to reconsider your government’s decision to ban the sale and bursting of crackers in your State for this Deepavali season,” CM Palaniswami wrote.

The question in this hullabaloo then arises that does Pollution affect COVID? A study says Yes.

A research paper published in the journal Science Advances, studied the impact of a single-unit rise in average particle pollution over 16 years before the pandemic on Covid-19 deaths in 3,089 US counties, covering 98% of the population, and concluded that chronic exposure to PM 2.5 causes alveolar angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) receptor overexpression and impairs host defenses. This could cause a more severe form of COVID-19 in ACE-2–depleted lungs, increasing the likelihood of poor outcomes, including death.

“It is striking that only small differences in pollution levels are linked to significantly higher levels of Covid-19,” said Mark Miller, an expert on the health impacts of air pollution at the University of Edinburgh, quoting Guardian.

Another study by Oxford Academic suggest that air pollution is an important cofactor in increasing the risk of mortality from COVID-19. The study found that the fraction of COVID-19 mortality can be attributed to the long-term exposure to ambient fine particulate air pollution. The study saw that relatively high fractions occur in parts of east Asia (35%), central Europe (25%), and eastern USA (25%).

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Image Credits : Oxford Academic

While these studies are based on foreign data, one can easily fathom a similar situation in India and especially in the states like Delhi where PM 2.5 levels are much higher. But one can easily argue that significant contributor of such particulate PM 2.5 pollution is industrial, agricultural and vehicular. The contributor to pollution in cities like NCR, are stubble burning in neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana, however NGT has been ineffective in countering that. The selective blanket ban on Diwali seems largely unfair, a better approach hence could have been regulation instead of blanket ban.

It is hence left to the wisdom of Indian citizens to choose a balance between celebration and lives battled by the pandemic.

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