Diwali: Annual chaos over crackers isn’t enough to tackle the toxic air

Cracker ban, states
The Calcutta High Court had banned the sale and bursting of firecrackers in Kolkata during Kali Puja to curb pollution

It’s a nippy Tuesday in Uttar Pradesh's Noida. The air purifier inside homes shows the AQI (Air Quality Index) crossing the 600-mark. As a thick layer of smog hovers over the horizon and a musty smell engulfs the air, a group of young boys in a multi-towered gated community break the afternoon stillness with a loud noise and cheering. For the next 15 minutes, they continue bursting crackers. All of this, however, is just a warm-up to the main event they are gearing for — Diwali — the festival of lights and sounds.

As millions of others across the National Capital Region (NCR) wait to light up the night sky in Diwali, blowing to bits all concerns over the severely poor air quality, the annual chaos over ban on crackers has only become shriller.

Led by Rajasthan, Delhi, Odisha, Haryana, West Bengal, Karnataka and some northeastern states have imposed complete or partial bans on firecrackers. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), the apex environmental court, has gone a step further and barred sale and use 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.

Besides the annual affair with smog already at its peak — especially in landlocked northern cities where industrial and vehicular pollution is aggravated by crop stubble burning — this year, states are also dealing with the widespread COVID-19 disease.

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