In a bid to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from worsening owing to poor air quality, the National Green Tribunal on Monday imposed a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers in the National Capital Region from midnight of November 9 to midnight of November 30.
A bench of the NGT, headed by its chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, directed that the order will also apply to all cities and towns in the country where the average of ambient air quality during November (as per available data of last year) falls under 'poor' or worse category.
"The cities/towns where air quality is 'moderate' or below, only green crackers be sold and the timings for use and bursting of crackers be restricted to two hours during festivals, like Diwali, Chatt, New Year, Christmas, etc, as may be specified by the concerned state," the order said.
The NGT said that restrictions are optional for the authorities at other places, but added that if there are more stringent measures under orders of the authorities, the same will prevail.
The tribunal, in its order, also said that all the states, Union Territories, Pollution Control Boards, and Pollution Control Committees may initiate special drives to contain air pollution from all sources in view of the potential of aggravation of COVID-19.
"The chief secretaries and DGPs of all the states and Union Territories may issue and circulate an appropriate order in above terms with appropriate enforcement guidelines to all the district magistrates and Superintendents of Police, PCBs/PCCs," the order said.
"The CPCB and the State PCBs/PCCs may regularly monitor the air quality during this period which may be uploaded on their respective websites. CPCB may compile information on the subject, including the status of compliance of this order from all the states and UTs and file a consolidated report with data compiled till filing of the report, before the next date," it added.
The tribunal noted that in view of the increased adverse health impact of pollution by use of crackers on COVID-19, aggravating risk to lives and health which has led to the ban by the Governments of Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, UT of Chandigarh, DPCC and by the Calcutta High Court on sale and use of crackers, applying the 'Sustainable Development' and 'Precautionary' principles, a case is made out for issuing directions for banning the sale and use of firecrackers during November 9 to 30 in areas where air quality is 'poor', 'very poor' and 'severe'.
Earlier, the tribunal had reserved its order after hearing amicus curiae senior advocate Raj Panjwani and Indian Fireworks Manufacturers' Association lawyer and senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani along with counsels appearing for the ministry of environment, Central Pollution Control Board and the lawyers for various states.
The tribunal had noted that there are expert views on the clear nexus of air pollution with COVID-19 and with increased air pollution, the virus can cause more damage.
The NGT was hearing a suo motu plea initiation during the hearing on an application, filed by the Indian Social Responsibility Network through Santosh Gupta, has also raised the issue of air pollution by the use of firecrackers in NCR at a time when air quality is at a 'very poor' level and the potential of worsening the COVID-19 pandemic.