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The recent ban on crackers in Delhi by the Supreme court has wreaked havoc on the Firecracker industry and disrupted celebration plans during the festive season. The Supreme Court’s decision has been facing mass discontentment and opposition, with people accusing the apex court of hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community.
On the other hand, the ban has been welcomed by many other cities as a voluntary step to fight air and noise pollution that crosses average limits annually during Diwali. The decision of the court to ban firecrackers in the capital came in response to the increasing level of air pollution in Delhi. There were reports that every year, during Diwali, there was ‘direct evidence of deterioration of air quality’ due to the bursting of firecrackers.
Firecrackers contain carbon and sulphur, emitting several harmful gases and chemicals used as a colouring or reducing agent, oxidizers, stabilizers or binders. These crackers have a greater effect on children due to their lower metabolism and strength to filter these agents as compared to adults. Air pollution has been one of the primary causes of respiratory issues in people that elevate during the festive season.
According to a study, New Delhi is among top cities in the world with the dirtiest air. When it comes to the rampant use of firecrackers during festivals, in Delhi several cases of burn injuries, respiratory issues, asthma, etc. are reported during the festive season. It is not only humans but animals too become victims of accidents caused by firecrackers. Stray dogs and birds often suffer injuries due to firecrackers, with the majority ignorant about the environment and safety norms.
There are several laws that deal with the issue of environmental pollution in India, like the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 for prevention and control of air pollution and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Rules, 1981, enacted Article 253 of the Constitution. The Ministry of Environment has also laid down guidelines relating to noise standards for firecrackers which are to be implemented by the State Boards.
In June 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held to take appropriate steps for the preservation of the natural resources of the earth which includes preservation of air quality and control of air pollution. The Act was drafted on the lines of UN Conference and lays down provisions for prevention, control and mitigation of air pollution, along with the establishment of State Boards which have the powers and functions to implement the provisions of the Act.
The laws and regulations relating to firecrackers are unknown to many due to lack of legal awareness and knowledge about the ill-effects of most of these unsafe firecrackers. The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion imposed a ban on illegally importing and selling fireworks of foreign origin, and manufacturing, using or selling any explosives containing sulphur or sulphurate with any chlorate. Still, firecrackers imported from China that flout these safety norms are sold openly without any check.
In 2005, the Supreme Court laid down the following guidelines with regards to firecrackers and the issue of sound pollution: The Department of Explosives can categorize firecrackers into sound-emitting firecrackers and colour emitting firecrackers. A complete ban on sound-emitting firecrackers between 10 PM and 6 AM. The manufacturer has to mention details of chemical contents of the firecracker on the box and adhere to the requisites provided by the Department of Explosives.
With regards to the ban, many are of the view that the government should implement a ban on the production of firecrackers, instead of a ban on their saie. There is a dire need to check and restrain wholesale sellers and retailers that are still silently operating and selling firecrackers in Delhi. The government should also take measures to sensitise and educate people about the consequences of burning firecrackers.