The Supreme Court today sought a response in the form of an affidavit from the Ministry of Environment and Forests on a petition which sought a countrywide ban on crackers and a slew of other measures to curb pollution
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked the MOEF to file the affidavit by May 8, the next date of hearing.
The government also has to respond on the plea filed by four kids led by Arjun Gopal not to impose any import duty on electric and hybrid vehicles or in the alternative substantially reduce the import duty on hybrid and electric vehicles.
It also wanted stoppage of the manufacture of all new diesel vehicles until the introduction of BS-VI standard fuels, after which only BS-VI compliant diesel vehicles may be manufactured.
Claiming that the cracker ban during Diwali 2017 was a successful experiment, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had on the last date of hearing in December 2017 pointed out that no major health hazard apart from some increase in coughing and breathlessness was reported due to the sporadic bursting despite the prohibition on sale.
“The respiratory system-related symptoms and signs were not much different during pre- and post-Dussehra and Diwali. Though there was some increase in cough and breathlessness, this did not translate into any significant illness requiring immediate medical attention. Other respiratory system-related complaints were also not much different during pre- and post-Dussehra and Diwali,” said the CPCB affidavit.
“Air quality did worsen during Diwali and symptoms of eye itching, coughing, relatively more hospital visits and high metal levels in urine do reflect adverse impact of firecracker bursting. However, it was not significant statistically,” said the report.
The SC had on October 9 last year suspended the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR till November 1 in a bid to test whether the festival without firecrackers will have a “positive effect” on the health of citizens and a steadily deteriorating air quality.
The court reverted to its November 2016 decision to suspend sales of firecrackers “to test itself to find out whether there would be a positive effect of this suspension, particularly during Diwali period”.
“Complete ban on the use, manufacture, licensing, sale, resale or distribution of firecrackers, sparkles of any kind throughout India”, said the main prayer.
The kids through their lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan had questioned how huge quantities of firecrackers were burst in Delhi and NCR even after the ban on sale imposed by the apex court.
They also pointed out the thick smog which enveloped Delhi and NCR due to crop burning in adjacent states.
“As far as fireworks are concerned, the conduct of the Delhi Police, the Central Government and the Delhi Government stand out as stark examples of how a complete lack of will and collusion with those who cause pollution can go a long way in attempting to frustrate the noble aims of this Hon’ble Courts orders”, the petition said.
“After this Hon’ble Court’s order dated 9.10.2017 which suspended fireworks licenses forthwith, there was optimism that the parties would observe the outcome of a fireworks-free Diwali and measure the change in pollution levels. The documentation that follows would show the true picture. They are cataloged under the following heads: Comparatively marginal gains in air quality in 2017 as compared to data of 2016. However the levels were nearly 10 times the safe limit because firecrackers were burst in large quantities.”, the petition said.