Ban firecrackers or burst ‘green’ ones? States take a call ahead of Diwali

This year, several states are opting to relax the complete ban on fireworks and have given the nod to the use of green crackers, which emit 30 per cent less particulate matter into the air

The sale and use of firecrackers have been banned in New Delhi. PTI pic

Ahead of Diwali, with the deadly coronavirus still lingering in the air, several states have either completely or partially banned firecrackers, while others have given the green signal for celebrating the festive spirit with crackers believed to be of a low-emission variety.

The spike in air pollution levels too during the festival season from Dussehra to New Year (from October to December) in cities like Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) have become a serious cause of concern. Crackers emit very high PM2.5 particles with the snake tablet producing the highest of them all, said a media report.

Back in 2015, three children knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court(SC) complaining about hazardous air pollution in the capital during Diwali, the apex court banned it in New Delhi and in the entire NCR region during Diwali 2018, said The Hindu. Last year too, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered a ban on the sale and use of crackers in the NCR until November 30.

This year, several states are opting to relax the complete ban on fireworks and have given the nod to green crackers, which emit 30 per cent less particulate matter into the air.


What are Green crackers?

Green crackers are low-emission fireworks permitted by the SC to allow people to celebrate during the festive season. These green crackers, researched and developed by experts at the CSIR-NEERI (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute), have been made with a chemical formulation that ensures reduced particle emission into the atmosphere by suppressing the dust produced.

While regular crackers emit about 160 decibels of sound, the sound levels with green crackers is restricted to 110-125 decibels. One of the key elements of green crackers is that though they use polluting chemicals like aluminium, barium, potassium nitrate and carbon, the quantity is reduced which in turn lowers the emission by about 30 per cent, said a report in News18.

With the coronavirus still looming over our lives, this year many states are being extra cautious and have decided either to ban or go green.

Also read: Court orders, COVID lower pollution levels during Diwali in Telugu states

Total ban on crackers in the capital

The Arvind Kejriwal government has imposed a complete ban on the storage, sale, and use of all types of firecrackers till January 1, 2022. This decision was arrived at after the government had studied the pollution levels in Delhi during the festival months over the last three years.

Besides the skyrocketing air pollution levels leading to health issues in Delhi, the government felt that social distancing norms will be violated if people get together to burst firecrackers. Meanwhile, the Delhi Police cracked down on illegal distribution of firecrackers and the News18 report quoting ANI news agency said that the cops raided a godown in north Delhi’s Sadar Bazar area this week in mid-October seizing more than 470kg of illegal fireworks. The owner of the property was arrested.

The Delhi government wants its neighbouring states – Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh– to announce a complete ban on the sale and purchase of crackers as well to curb pollution levels in the capital.

Green signal for only green crackers in Rajasthan

The Rajasthan government had first banned the sale and use of crackers in the state. But the government backtracked and has now permitted “only” green crackers. People in the state can burst green crackers only from 8pm to 10pm during festivals like Diwali and Guruparb, from 6am to 8am on Chhath puja, and from 11.55pm to 12.30am on Christmas and New Year.

But the state is being careful about places which already have a poor air quality index. And, crackers had to be verified if they were truly “green” by scanning the QR code on the box issued by the CSIR-NEERI.

Also read: 11 dead as blast tears through Tamil Nadu fireworks factory

Haryana goes for complete ban

In Haryana, due to the dropping air quality the region witnesses at this time of the year, along with the stubble burning in nearby districts, the government has decided to go in for a complete ban on the sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in 14 districts. The Haryana State Pollution Board had come down heavily on firecracker distribution. The order comes after directives issued by the NGT and the SC on restrictions on the use of crackers.

Odisha prohibits the sale, use of firecrackers

In October, the Odisha government issued a statement through its COVID-19 guidelines prohibiting the use and sale of fireworks in the state during the month. To curb the spread of infection, the sale, and use of firecrackers shall remain prohibited during this festive month, said he government said in its guidelines, which will remain in force from October 1 to November 1.

Tamil Nadu

Meanwhile, TN chief minister MK Stalin advocating the use of firecrackers has urged Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik to lift the ban and allow the sale of firecrackers that fall within the norms set by the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal.

Ludhiana too has banned the bursting of firecrackers due to the pandemic crisis to protect the larger community health on the back of the synergy between air pollution and respiratory infections, it said.

fireworks, burn injuries, firecrackers unit, Sivakasi, chemicals, fire, fire fighters, hospital, Standard Fireworks

What the Supreme Court says

The apex court had earlier refused to impose a complete ban on the sale of firecrackers and said that sale can happen through only licensed traders and that only green crackers can be sold. Online sale of firecrackers however has been completely banned.

The verdict came in response to a plea seeking a ban on manufacturing and sale of firecrackers across the country to curb air pollution, said an India Today report.

In the past, the apex court had said that while deciding on a ban on firecrackers, it is imperative to take into account the fundamental right of livelihood of firecracker manufacturers and the right to health of over 1.3 billion people of the country.

A Hindustan Times report stated that the SC has said that the authorities may permit the sale and use of firecrackers as per the category of air quality index in the cities. The top court said that it is not averse to the celebration but not at the cost of the life of other citizens. Moreover, crackers does not have to mean the use of loud crackers, it can also be with “fuljhaddi” and the like which are not noisy, it said, added the News18 report.

The SC said that their “earlier order” must be complied with by every state. “Despite the fact that there is a specific ban on joint crackers, if you go to any state or city or any celebration, joint crackers are openly available in the market,” said the SC.