Amid the growing air pollution concerns, many Indian States namely Delhi, Rajasthan, Odisha, and Haryana have banned the use and sale of firecrackers preceding the Diwali celebrations. Recently, the Supreme Court also gave cause notice to firecracker makers for using barium salt in their manufacturing which is said to be harmful upon exposure for people suffering from Asthma.
Firecrackers emit various harmful gases such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc into the atmosphere. Along with that, they release chemicals such as cadmium, lead, magnesium, lead, chromium and more, which when amassed together create a serious health violation when ingested, particularly for children.
Recent reports including the Report on Ambient Air Quality & Noise on Deepawali 2020 from the Central Pollution Control Board observed a higher level of pollutants during pre-Diwali days and further addition of particulates due to the use of firecrackers at night.
Each year, the festival of Diwali witnesses a rise in the amount of air pollution and in the number of people who are likely to suffer from respiratory issues, asthma, etc. Stray animals and birds are also affected by the problem who often face injuries, burning, fear and anxiety in the midst of the rampant bursting of fireworks.
The Ban on Fireworks in India
In 2005, the Supreme Court issued guidelines with respect to firecrackers and noise pollution, wherein the Department of Explosives categorized the fireworks into two groups; Sound Emitting Cracker Sound Level Not Exceeding 125 dB(AI) or 145 dB (C) pk at 4 meters distance from the point of bursting and Colour and Light Emitting Crackers Sound Level Not Exceeding 90 dB (AI). As per the guidelines, the manufacturers have to abide by the prerequisites laid down by the Department of Explosives and also have to enlist information about the chemicals in the composition of the firecracker.
In 2014, illegal import, possession as well as sale of firecrackers having foreign origin were banned by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Gradually, the Delhi NCR saw the first legal prohibition on the use of fireworks in 2016 when the Supreme Court motioned a law due to the alarming amount of air pollution recorded in the region. In 2018, the Supreme Court denied a nationwide ban on the sale of firecrackers and enforced restrictions on the bursting of firecrackers with specific timings along with only mandating the use of only green crackers. The Court avoided hampering the lives of firework manufacturers while imposing the ban by highlighting the right to life, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In 2019, green crackers were made and manufactured with the guidance of the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The police joined hands and saw to the distribution of the green crackers licenses to the respective vendors. These crackers were declared to be environment-friendly and curbed pollution up to 30%.
Last year, the National Green Tribunal enforced a total ban on the sale as well as the use of fireworks in the NCR along with directing all States and Union Territories to take up initiatives to limit air pollution from all possible sources, seeing how it might worsen the COVID-19 situation.
Laws and Regulation to Control Air Pollution
Observing the need to control the deterioration of air quality, the Indian Government laid down comprehensive air pollution laws and regulations given below;
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 aims to protect, control and abate air pollution and aims to preserve the quality of air by establishing ambient air quality standards.
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) (Union Territory) Rules, 1983
The Central Government laid down the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) (Union Territory) Rules, 1983 by exercising the powers conferred by Section 54 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and consulting the Central Board for the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution.
Article 253 in the Constitution Of India, 1949
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 were promulgated under Article 253 in The Constitution Of India, 1949.
The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020
The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 was declared to provide for the constitution of a Commission for better coordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems concerning air quality in the NCR, the National Capital Region and adjoining areas. In April 2021, the ordinance was repromulgated as the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2021.
Air pollution affects the environment drastically and the regulatory laws as well as the recent firecracker ban act as a voluntary step towards curbing its harmful effects. The use of fireworks during Diwali amounts to serious air and noise pollution, so it is our responsibility as citizens to protect ourselves and the environment by abiding by the laws and the proper bans enforced in the respective States.