Shoppers throng markets to buy firecrackers as authorities struggle to implement ban on highly polluting crackers; govt. says public cooperation is needed

Despite a ban on highly polluting imported fireworks and strict air and noise emission norms for crackers made in India, firecrackers that emit toxic gases and particulate matter are still being sold across Delhi.

While the Centre had banned the import of fireworks that contain sulphur and sulphates mixed with chlorates way back in 1992, successive governments have struggled to implement the ban. Since most of these crackers come from China, a public campaign against fireworks from that country has been on for years.

‘Need serious effort

Though Chinese fireworks are not as popular in Delhi markets as they once were, experts say that it’s not enough.

“The question is not just of Chinese or imported fireworks. There are plenty of Indian-made fireworks that that are also toxic. Harmful heavy metals are added to produce different colours,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, the head of the Centre for Science and Environment’s air pollution and clean transportation programme.

These Indian-made fireworks are toxic, plus they lead to emission of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, said Ms. Roychowdhury.

Sunil Dahiya, a clean air campaigner with Greenpeace India, said that though the government and most of the public were aware of the harm caused by firecrackers, there has not been a reduction in their use.

“The implementation of any anti-pollution effort still seems to be an issue, along with awareness, sensitisation and acceptance. Both the government and the public have to make more serious efforts,” said Mr. Dahiya.

The Delhi government has acknowledged that it needs to toughen its stance on the issue. In September, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) asked the Customs Department and the Delhi Police to prevent the import and sale of banned fireworks in the Capital.

Strict action

Chandraker Bharti, the Secretary of the Delhi Environment and Forest Department, told The Hindu that the government had set up 11 teams, including members from DPCC and district administrations, to carry out inspections in markets.

As of Saturday, he said there was no information of any illegal fireworks being sold. But, he said strict action would be taken against those found selling firecrackers that flout norms.

“We have also involved students and RWAs in our awareness campaign. It can’t be one way. We need the public’s cooperation as well,” said Mr. Bharti.

With about a week to go till Diwali on October 30, it didn’t look like the cooperation would be forthcoming as fireworks’ markets continued to be crowded with shoppers.

Source: October 24, 2016, The Hindu