To meet the chronic challenge of lethal air pollution during the winter months in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party government has decided to completely ban the production, storage, sale, online delivery, and bursting of firecrackers. “The day after Diwali is shrouded with smoke and when the smoke from stubble burning is added to it, the pollution levels in Delhi inch towards the danger mark,” Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said. “The government has taken a decision, the chief minister has taken the decision, and according to that, we are directing the DPCC to completely ban the production, storage, sale, online delivery, and bursting of crackers. The decision was taken today as every year, the police issue licences for all these activities. The police will be directed that they do not issue any licence for production, storage, sale, or online delivery of crackers to anyone.”
This is the fourth year in a row that there will be a complete ban on firecrackers in the national capital. The minister said, “The Supreme Court. on 23.10.2018 had given a verdict allowing only the bursting of green crackers. However, it was seen that under the cover of green crackers, all kinds of firecrackers were being burst. And that year too, the level of pollution was quite high. On 1.11.2020, the NGT passed an order that in Delhi-NCR, wherever the air quality levels were in the ‘poor category’, there would be a total ban on bursting crackers. DPCC, on 28 09.2021, completely banned the production, storage, and sale of crackers. In 2022 also, there was a complete ban on the bursting of crackers. Since 2020, green crackers have also been banned in Delhi. And the same will continue this year.”
The minister stressed that even though there has been a steady decline in the PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels, the air quality is still not conducive to the good health of citizens. “If we look at PM 10 levels of 2014, it was 324, and in 2023, it was 188. Similarly, there has been a steady decline in the levels of PM 2.5. If you look at the percentage, between 2014 and 2022, there has been a 42% drop in PM 10 levels and a 46% drop in PM 2.5 levels. However, even these levels are not conducive to good health,” he said.
Rai also appealed to neighbouring states in NCR to enforce a similar ban. “We hope that those regions in Delhi NCR which suffer from ‘poor’ air quality also enforce a complete ban. We saw last time that in spite of a total ban, crackers are smuggled into Delhi from neighbouring areas and some people also try to burst them. I appeal to all NCR states not to issue any kind of licences,” he said.
According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), if the level is between 0 and 50, it is “good”, between 51-100 is “satisfactory”, 101 to 200 is “moderate”, and 201 to 300 is “poor”.
The minister added that if there is a complete ban on firecrackers in all the NCR states, “then we will be successful in containing the pollution due to crackers. We will write to states to implement a ban on crackers.”
Asked what AAP is doing in order to contain stubble burning in Punjab where it is also in power, Rai told News18 that all kinds of efforts were being made by the government, whether it is containing pollution due to crop waste burning, dust, or vehicle fumes, and that collective efforts have led to lower levels of pollution in Delhi. However, there is a need to push it down further, he said. “Even last year, a lot of efforts were made. This year too we are making efforts. We hope that compared to last year, this year there will be a drop in stubble burning,” he said.
The Delhi government is in the process of preparing its “winter action plan”, which will be unveiled by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the first week of October. This week, there will be separate meetings with environmental experts and various departments over this.