In the aftermath of Diwali celebrations, our district grapples with air quality crisis, where government policies and festive revelries converge, presenting unforeseen challenges. While the government’s approval for major corporations to sell firecrackers prioritises profit over citizens’ well-being, residents also play a role in the air quality decline through celebratory choices. It’s essential to recognise the shared responsibility in addressing the issue. The air quality index, reduced to a statistic, reflects not just government apathy but also residents’ collective impact. As we navigate the consequences of celebration choices, it’s crucial for both authorities and citizens to collaborate in finding a balanced solution, putting public health at the forefront without assigning blame.
Ban all type of firecrackers
The city experienced a sort of gas chamber for about two weeks before Diwali when, fortunately, rain gods came to our rescue. A mild shower restored the clear blue skies and we got a reasonably good air to breathe, AQI 121. There was a palpable silence vis-a-vis crackers. It seemed that the well-meaning restrictions on the occasion of the festival of lights were working. But all that was misplaced. Come Diwali, come evening, the so called ‘two hour window’ was taken as a license to burst as many crackers as you liked and till as long as you could. They were not school boys. They were mostly adults boozing with cash to burn. The AQI went up beyond 300. I think it is futile to enact a law if you don’t want to enforce it for political reasons. The responsibility to protect air and water rests on each one of us and should now figure in the sermons of our religious places too. All schools should maintain a colour-coded air quality board and post entries to show the status and trend. Some schools are already doing it as a science activity. The city should stop forth cremating dead bodies with high carbon wood and use the two gas-powered machines available instead, without any excuse. The SGPC might have already bought materials for fireworks to be displayed on Guru Nanak Dev anniversary. The same should be dampened, dumped and not burst. Guru Nanak will bless the organisers. A blanket ban on all types of crackers is now the only way. Green crackers are a myth. However, manufacturers and other stake holders may be compensated like farmers. The number of four wheelers entering the walled city should be curbed and odd-even system followed twice a week. Ultimately, one has to repeat what UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says that ‘we are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator’.
Prof Mohan Singh
Residents ignored cracker time limit
On Diwali night, the authorities concerned had not deployed policemen to check bursting of crackers beyond the stipulated timeframe of two hours, the residents went berserk bursting crackers. This was the major reason air quality index spiked. The residents ignored all preventive measures needed to be taken by them celebrating green Diwali only.
Govt, residents work together
The widespread bursting of crackers by residents across the district on Diwali despite of ban and not adhering to the time lines aggravated the pollution problem. There was also directions from the SC that only green crackers should be produced and sold but that too went for a toss. No one is held accountable as the law authorities have miserably failed to implement the orders. Moreover, there has been a spike again in farm fires and cold weather conditions have made the pollutants to accumulate more in the air. All this can be overcome only with the joint efforts of the government and residents.
Lot of health awareness campaigns need to be run, facilities to be provided to the farmers for stubble disposal and penalties to be strictly implemented if people do not cooperate
Produce eco-friendly crackers
For the last several years, government and NGOs have been urging people to celebrate green Diwali and limiting the time for bursting crackers. It’s extremely unfortunate that we as a nation are not sufficiently aware of our responsibilities towards our own environment. Therein lies a solution. Why can’t we stop the manufacturing of the crackers that pollute the environment? The government should start inspecting these cracker manufacturing units and ensure that only environment-friendly crackers are manufactured. Unless this step is taken, no amount of bans, time frames for bursting crackers will yield any result.
Cracker ban goes up in smoke
In the festival month of November, both residents and authorities ignored almost all preventive measures aimed at checking environmental pollution. This includes flouting strict enforcement of the ban on the manufacturing, sale, and use of firecrackers during specific time window. Despite directions from the Supreme Court and state government regarding these measures, nobody seemed to bother about them. People continued to burst crackers throughout Diwali night, causing severe air and noise pollution that took the AQI to the worst level of 500. Even the civil and police administration remained lax mute spectators. Unfortunately, this has become a routine affair at almost all festivals, people celebrate without adhering to any instructions, giving two hoots to the rising environmental pollution. Efforts to encourage eco-friendly green Diwali celebrations, such as awareness campaigns and incentives to avoid firecrackers, have also proved futile. Lack of coordination and cooperation among neighbouring states, and the slack attitude of farmers as well as administration to control stubble burning are other major sources of pollution in the region, contributing to the formation of smog and worsening air quality. Measures to control traffic congestion and vehicular emissions have also remained unsuccessful. Had the almighty god not intervened two days before Diwali by showering a rainfall, the situation could have been worse for the patients, children, and elders. However, keeping in mind the casual nature of the people, politicians, and administrators in a democratic setup of the country, it seems quite challenging to implement such restrictions.
Dr Kulwant Singh Phull
Cut manufacturing of firecrackers
The Supreme Court had banned the production and sale of all crackers except ‘green crackers’ and those with reduced emissions. The ball was in the hands of people that burnt and exploded crackers that led to ecological imbalance and affecting the air quality index. It was up to the residents to adopt measures while celebrating Diwali festival but due to enthusiasm among the masses the people exploded crackers in big quantity. It was the government to restrict the manufacturing / productions of crackers rather than indulging in blame game vice versa. We residents should also be held responsible for polluting the environment and the authorities who allowed the sale of crackers which could have polluted the environment and upset the ecological balance. Every year the administration advises the masses to refrain from crackers which create pollution but the result is known to all.
Rajat Kumar Mohindru
Govt, police dept fail on all fronts
When the air quality index was dangerously high before Diwali, nature came to our rescue and washed away the dust and smog through abundant shower. But the relief was short lived and AQI again shot to 500 on Diwali due to open flouting of fire crackers quality and bursting norms and unabated burning of crop residue across the region. The people did not adhere to the time frame fixed by the administration and the bursting of firecrackers continued unabated in contravention of the schedule and even the following day. More tragic was the fact that administrative machinery including the police ignored the blatant violations and no action on the ground to prevent the mishaps was taken. The extent of callousness can be measured from the fact that no police patrolling in the sensitive areas was undertaken and no FIR against the offenders was registered anywhere in the city. For this colossal failure, only the administration is totally responsible and hence must be made accountable through holding an independent probe by a sitting High Court judge into the gross negligence of both pre and post levels. However, the public campaign for creating sustainable awareness about the value of air quality in particular and the environment in general must be made a regular phenomenon at all media centres.
Provide cash incentive to farmers
After little respite from rains, the air quality index has again gone up in the entire northern region. While farm fires have declined upon states contemplating strict action against stubble burning cases in accordance with serious view taken by the apex court, yet the pollution aggravated due to widespread bursting of crackers on Diwali night. The limited hour window allowed by the government to burst crackers was not adhered to by the people and cracking continued till midnight. Consequent spike of pollutants in air doused the preventive measures taken earlier to bring it under control. The environment has gone hazy and smog and toxic chemicals are affecting the health of humans in a big way, whereas the situation in Delhi-NCR is worse. Notably, ban orders are announced every year on bursting harmful crackers, permitting only low decibel fireworks during Diwali and other festivities, but the instructions are rarely implemented by the residents as well as the authorities. Similarly, the issue of industrial pollution and household garbage is also not resolved properly. As such, it has become a challenging task to prevent environment desecration. As a lasting and workable solution to stubble burning, the main source of pollution, the farmers ought to be supported financially and technically for useful decomposition of crops residue in fields. The sellers and manufacturing concerns of harmful fireworks must be forewarned to shut down while a total ban on harmful explosives would be befitting to end the menace. The authorities should not relax against the violators in the mood of festivities. After all, the lives of citizens are more important than the merriment of few hours. Diwali is our pious festival, it needs to observed with reverence but the insanity caused by desecration of climate has to be curbed by all means. It is in our own interest that the earlier efforts made to check pollution should not go in vain, regular surveillance and sustained follow-up needs to be carried holistically.
Nirmaljit Singh Chatrath
Question for next week
There has been a significant rise in criminal activities such as murder, theft and loot incidents in the recent past. Anti-social elements seem to have no fear of law enforcement agencies. What steps should be taken to instil fear of law in criminals?
Suggestions in not more than 200 words can be sent to [email protected] by Thursday (November 23)
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