The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday temporarily banned kite-flying with manja, a thread coated in a sticky paste of ground-up glass or metal, in response to an outcry over injuries and deaths caused by the sharp string.
A bench headed by the green panel’s chairperson, Swatanter Kumar, imposed the nationwide ban until the next hearing on February 1, saying manja is dangerous for people, birds, animals, and the environment.
The ban applies to a variety of manja such as glass-coated nylon and cotton strings, as well as an array of lethal ones imported from China. Only traditional biodegradable fabric strings will be allowed.
The cheap, Chinese manjas are a preferred choice for kite-flyers during festivals such as Makar Sankranti and Independence Day when they indulge in aerial duels and try to bring down each other’s kites.
Every year, media report dozens of deaths and injuries caused by the high-flying duels, mainly of children and motorcyclists whose throats are sometimes cut by the string.
The tribunal directed the Manja Association of India to submit a report to the Central Pollution Control Board on the harmful effects of such kite strings.
The order follows a petition from the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which sought a ban on kite-flying with manja during Makar Sankranti in mid-January.
The animal rights group cited the Allahabad high court’s November 2015 order in which the use of Chinese manja was banned in Uttar Pradesh.
The Delhi government too banned manja this August after stray strings killed during Independence Day holidays three people, including two toddlers, all of whom were left with slit throats by the razor-sharp custom-made fibre. Offenders will be put in jail for five years and fined Rs 1 lakh.
The deadly thread slit a three-year-old’s windpipe when she insisted on looking out through the car’s sunroof while returning with her parents from a movie. Another child died similarly, while a 22-year-old motorcyclist bled to death with a ripped throat.
“To increase the chances of being able to cut as many kites as possible, kite strings are made deliberately sharp with churned glass, metals and other materials in order to make them razor sharp to cut through other persons’ kite strings,” the PETA petition said.
PETA also pointed out how powdered metal on manjas has led to blackouts after the string came in contact with live overhead electric wires. Kite-flyers and passers-by could be electrocuted if they touched a severed manja strings stuck to power lines.
Besides, child labour is rampant in units manufacturing manja, where they are exposed to hazardous metal and glass dust that cause respiratory problems, the group said.
Kite-flying is a favourite pastime in the sub-continent, but restrictions were imposed in several countries.
In 2005, Pakistan’s supreme court banned kite-flying nationwide. Islamist groups also oppose kite-flying, branding it a Hindu festival. In the 1990s, the Afghan Taliban infamously banned kite-flying, a restriction that figured prominently in the popular novel and movie, The Kite Runner.
(with agency inputs)