Despite years of anti-cracker awareness programmes pollution in Delhi has been increasing every year over the past five years.
Data from the past five years shows that pollutants such as particulate matter 10 (PM 10) and sulphur dioxide have increased manifold during this time. Bursting crackers leads to an increase in both these pollutants.
In the case of RK Puram, the increase in the level of PM 10 is almost 1.5 times between 2010 and 2014. At Punjabi Bagh, the increase in the sulphur dioxide levels is more than 6 times between 2010 and 2014.
The pollution figures start to increase at around 6 pm on the day of Diwali and tend to peak between 10 pm and midnight. The figures, however, remain unhealthy till about 6 am the next day.
“We have observed that despite several appeals for all these years have had almost no effect. The pollution figures clearly indicate that the pollution has been rising. The awareness is there but it has not translated into action,” said Delhi government environment secretary, Ashwani Kumar.
The department’s sensitization programmes against crackers are on track.
“Increasing awareness is the only way we as a department can tackle the problem. Including children in this is very important and we are issuing appeals to over 2000 eco clubs in the city,” Kumar said.
On Monday, the government flagged off its anti-cracker campaign with school children. It also held a workshop with stakeholders, including school principals and children earlier this month to outline its strategy for the anti-cracker campaign this year.
“The one way that I see to control the pollution is to put a cap on the supply of fireworks since the demand shows no signs of abating. It is, however, too late to try this strategy this year as the stocks are already in place,” Kumar said.
The authorities have passed, as in the past, guidelines to block the sale of Chinese crackers that are of poor quality, are not regulated by Indian standards and tend to violate norms relating to noise pollution when compared to the ones made in India.
A plea against crackers was also heard in the Supreme Court last month. Another plea was recently filed at the National Green Tribunal and asked for designated time and place for use of firecrackers during festivals like Diwali.
The petitioners contended that the chemicals released into the environment due to bursting of crackers caused negative effects on everyone’s health.