Sale and use of firecrackers – NGT ban

GS 3 ENVIRONMENT Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Introduction 

      Firecrackers can cause severe effects in the health of people like heart diseases, respiratory or nervous system disorders.

Recent News:

  • In the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it should surprise no one that the National Green Tribunal has prohibited the sale and use of firecrackers during Deepavali
    • in the National Capital Region of Delhi and in urban centres that recorded poor or worse air quality in November last year.
  • With Diwali round the corner, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued notices to 18 States
    • including Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, on prohibiting firecrackers, expanding the scope of pleas filed before it seeking a ban on sale and use of crackers in the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • Supreme Court orders 
    • provide some concessions to cities and towns 
      • that have moderate or better air quality
        • by allowing “green crackers” 
        • specified hours for bursting.
  • These stipulations are to extend to Christmas and New Year if the ban continues beyond November.

Effects:

  • Even the people suffering from common cold and coughs can cause congestion of throat and chest.
  • Noise pollution causes 
    • restlessness
    • temporary or permanent hearing loss
    • high blood pressure
    • sleep disturbance 
    • even poor cognitive development in kids.
  • Firecrackers contain chemicals and substances like cadmium, lead, chromium, aluminium, magnesium, nitrates, carbon monoxide, copper, potassium, sodium, zinc oxide, manganese dioxide etc. 
    • which if accumulated can eventually damage health if inhaled or ingested.

NGT ban:

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed that 
    • there would be a total ban on sale 
    • use of all kinds 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.)
  • A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson also directed that in places where the ambient air quality fell under the ‘moderate’ or below category
    • only green crackers would be permitted to be sold 
    • timings restricted to two hours for bursting of crackers.
  • The Tribunal also directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State pollution control boards and committees 
    • to regularly monitor the air quality during this period 
    • upload the data on their respective websites.
  • The NGT took note that 
    • Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Chandigarh, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the Calcutta High Court had already responded 
    • to deteriorating environmental conditions by banning firecrackers this year.

Current Scenario:

  • The tribunal’s reasoning giving primacy to the precautionary principle in sustainable development 
    • over employment and revenue losses is understandable.
    • As the impact of COVID-19 became clear in March, 
      • there were fears of a case surge during the winter
  • it was incumbent on the Centre to work with States 
  • resolutely prevent the burning of farm stubble ahead of Deepavali.
  • This annual phenomenon fouls the air across northern and eastern India
    • imposes heavy health and productivity costs.
  • In the absence of pollution from agricultural residue
    • there might have been some room for a limited quantity of firecrackers
      • although climatic conditions at this time of year
      • of low temperature and atmospheric circulation
        • would still leave many in distress.
  • Only damage control is possible now
    • including steps to address the concerns of the fireworks industry.
  • It should be evident to policymakers that their measures under the National Clean Air Programme
    • which seeks to reduce particulate matter pollution 
      • by 20% to 30% by 2024
      • must be demonstrably effective.
  • By the government’s own admission, there were 148 days of poor to severe air quality during 2019 in the NCR 
    • down from 206 days the previous year. 
    • Many other cities have a similar profile, but get less attention.
  • Tamil Nadu, where 90% of firecrackers are produced
    • has legitimate concerns on the fate of the industry this year, which, producers claim
      • about 2,300 crore worth of output.
    • A transparent compensation scheme for workers, and suitable relief for producers may be necessary
      • although the longer-term solution might lie in broad basing economic activity in the Sivakasi region
      • reducing reliance on firecrackers.

Green Crackers: 

  • The green crackers developed by the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – NEERI
    • include flower pots, pencils, sparkles and chakkar.
    • No doubt that green crackers are environment-friendly 
    • Are developed to reduce air pollution that causes health hazards.
  • has no barium nitrate which is one of the key ingredients of traditional firecrackers.
  • Names of these crackers are: 
    • safe water releaser (SWAS)
    • safe minimal aluminium (SAFAL)
    • safe thermite cracker (STAR).
  • These crackers will release 
    • water vapour or air as a dust suppressant 
    • diluent for gaseous emissions.
  • can only be manufactured by those who have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with CSIR-NEERI.
  • will be sold that 
    • consist of a unique logo on the box
    • have a QR code with production 
    • emission details.

Conclusion        

With 40% of all pollution-linked deaths attributed to bad air quality in leading emerging economies and some evidence from the U.S. on higher COVID-19 mortality in highly polluted areas, it is time governments showed a sense of accountability on the right to breathe clean air.

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