India's top court partially bans firecrackers as smog season begins

The Indian Supreme Court banned the sale of most firecrackers Tuesday, amid concerns their use during annual...

Posted: Oct 23, 2018 11:35 AM
Updated: Oct 23, 2018 11:35 AM

The Indian Supreme Court banned the sale of most firecrackers Tuesday, amid concerns their use during annual Diwali celebrations next month will again send pollution levels spiking across the country.

In its judgment, the court said the ban would apply to traditional firecrackers, but not so-called "green" fireworks, which it defined as being "low emission sound and light emitting functional crackers" that produce less polluting particulate matter.

Air pollution

Environment and natural resources

Fireworks

Leisure and lifestyle

Pollution

Asia

Continents and regions

India

Smog

South Asia

Diwali

Holidays and observances

Festivals

Particulate matter

The move comes as cities across India are experiencing heavy smog, as crop clearances and falling temperatures bring an annual plunge in air quality.

Critics were skeptical about how effective the ban would be and questioned how it would be enforced.

Gopal Sankaranarayanan, a lawyer who represented one of the petitioners to the court, said the exemption for "green" firecrackers meant little because, "as of now, none exist."

Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer, agreed: "I don't know if there is anything known as green firecrackers. Firecrackers are supposed to generate sound and smoke. The whole concept of the firecrackers is to create a nuisance."

Diwali blues

The petition was originally filed in 2015 over concerns fireworks were a major cause of pollution in the country, and there have been repeated attempts to push for a partial or total ban since.

One major challenge to such rulings however is the annual festival of Diwali, which begins this year on November 7.

The celebration is known as the festival of light, and people celebrate by lighting lamps and bursting firecrackers in a symbolic representation of the triumph of good over evil

"During the festival season, it is impossible to police (fireworks). This kind of restriction does not really work," Dutta said.

In a judgment last year instituting a separate temporary ban on firecrackers, the Supreme Court said the adverse effects caused by setting the fireworks off during Diwali "have been witnessed year after year. The air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby."

Experts said it is hoped the latest, more widespread ban will drastically reduce the pollution caused by firecrackers -- both air and noise.

A similar ban on fireworks in Beijing helped improve air quality last winter according to state media, but it coincided with a major crackdown on pollution in neighboring areas -- one which won't be replicated this year over economic concerns.

Delhi smog

New Delhi has emerged as the focus of the debate within India over air pollution, after it was briefly the most polluted city in the world in 2016 and has consistently struggled to cut smog levels.

Last year, the chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal called the city a "gas chamber."

Nor are things much better outside of major urban areas. According to a recent study however, the majority of deaths in India related to air pollution -- around 75% -- occur in the countryside.

The past week has seen air quality in the Indian capital plunge again, with the Central Pollution Control Board recording an average air quality level of 272 on Monday. During Diwali last year, Delhi's air quality index reached 604.

According to the World Health Organization, an acceptable level for humans to breathe regularly is 25.

The measure is based on the concentration of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, per cubic meter. The microscopic particles, which are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, are considered particularly harmful because they are small enough to lodge deep into the lungs and pass into other organs, causing serious health risks.

Breathing in air with a PM2.5 content of between 950 to 1,000 is considered roughly equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day, according to the independent Berkeley Earth science research group.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 394079

Reported Deaths: 32043
CountyConfirmedDeaths
New York City21547523104
Nassau418532183
Suffolk414271981
Westchester348661425
Rockland13602668
Orange10730478
Erie7337634
Dutchess4213151
Monroe3780266
Onondaga2863184
Albany2112121
Ulster178286
Oneida164290
Sullivan145245
Putnam132963
Niagara123788
Schenectady80537
Broome72258
Rensselaer55528
Saratoga55014
Columbia46637
Madison35717
Orleans28151
Steuben26841
Ontario2659
Warren26330
Greene26018
Fulton25724
Washington24614
Genesee2385
St. Lawrence2192
Oswego2013
Tompkins1770
Wayne1743
Herkimer1623
Chenango1465
Chemung1442
Tioga14324
Livingston1308
Chautauqua1277
Cattaraugus1236
Cayuga1192
Montgomery1184
Clinton1014
Wyoming955
Delaware914
Jefferson880
Otsego845
Seneca700
Allegany610
Schoharie580
Cortland470
Yates466
Essex420
Franklin310
Lewis300
Schuyler130
Hamilton60
Unassigned00
Utica
Broken Clouds
87° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 88°
Oneonta
Scattered Clouds
85° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 85°
Herkimer
Broken Clouds
87° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 88°
Thendara
Broken Clouds
87° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 88°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Click here to learn more about A Healthier Mohawk Valley
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
Senior Send-Off brought to you by Herkimer College
Menu 2 Go list of takeout dinners & fish fries
WKTV Golf Card - Under 150 left