Go beyond the smoke and mirrors of crackers

On Monday, the Bombay High Court issued permission to burst firecrackers on Diwali only for three hours, between 7 pm and 10 pm, to combat worsening air pollution in Mumbai. The financial capital’s air quality has deteriorated in recent months, with AQI consistently remaining in the moderate to poor category (150-200). A central team is expected to visit the city soon to evaluate the dire situation and what steps the state government has taken to tackle the challenge that leaves a deep imprint on the environment, the health of citizens and the economy.

However, banning crackers – as Delhi has done for several years – or restricting their use – as the court suggested in Mumbai – while very welcome, won’t be enough. Both cities need long-term plans to improve air quality, not band-aid measures to tide over the current pollution season. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court called out the Delhi government on its odd-even car scheme, terming it as ‘mere optics’. Again welcome, but not enough.

The Bombay High Court’s three-hour window for crackers, among other measures including a ban on construction activities, is great. But what’s equally important are its words on the issue: ‘We have to make a choice. Either we have a disease-free environment, or we burn firecrackers and celebrate the festival.’ While the court addressed the state government, citizens – the ‘you and I’ – must also consider what the judges said. It is finally up to them to choose between a healthy environment and crackers. The choice they make will be crucial since it will be a signal to government to take solid measures for cleaning up the air. Till people show they are willing to put health and quality of life above ‘tradition’, there will be no change.


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