It will be a less boisterous but – as is widely hoped – a cleaner Diwali in Delhi and its neighbourhood this year with the Supreme Court today banning the sale of firecrackers till November 1, saying it wants to assess the impact on the air quality.
Those who had already bought firecrackers can still burst them on October 19, when millions will celebrate the festival of lights by bursting crackers and lighting lamps.
In November last year, the court had stopped the sale of fireworks within the National Capital Region, which includes Delhi and nearby areas, following a petition flagging the alarming rise in pollution levels after Diwali.
Last month, the court temporarily suspended the ban and allowed the sale of crackers, saying a complete ban would be an “extreme step”, and a “graded approach” was needed to tackle pollution. The ban will now go only after November 1.
Each year, Diwali festivities leave the air in Delhi thick with deadly smog and suspended particles, and residents complaining of breathlessness and lung difficulties.
Last Diwali, the pollution in Delhi was said to be dangerous and the worst in 10 years. After the festival, the Supreme Court, responding to a 2015 petition by three children aged between six years and 14 months, banned the sale of crackers.
“We are the most vulnerable category when it comes to air pollution, especially from suspended particles and toxins. We are foremost prone to lung disease, asthma, coughing, bronchitis, retarded development of the nervous system and cognitive impairment,” the children’s petition had argued, referring to the fundamental Right to Life.
Cracker manufacturers challenged the ban as a drastic step that would impact livelihoods, after which the Supreme Court paused the ban.
But the children went to the court again asking that the ban be restored. The court today agreed that a ban “should be given a chance”.