‘Banning fireworks a touchy issue’ | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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‘Banning fireworks a touchy issue’

mumbai Updated: Oct 15, 2011 01:47 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the state authority that deals with environment issues, says it is taking steps to make Diwali eco-friendly, and dissuading people from bursting firecrackers.

“As an environment authority, we have done our bit. We have rules in place to say what sound levels are permissible. We have also measured cracker decibel levels and compiled a list of firecrackers that exceed permissible sound limits. We have written to manufacturers asking them to stop producing high-intensity crackers. However, we cannot take action,” said Milind Mhaisakar, member secretary, MPCB.

He agreed, however, that though fireworks cause heavy sound, air and water pollution, there are no rules in place to ban them altogether.

“ We associate fireworks with our religious festival Diwali, and so banning it will become a touchy issue. We can only bring some restrictions on its usage,” he said.

As a part of its awareness campaign, the MPCB conducted tests on firecrackers. It circulated names of firecrackers that exceed permissible decibel limits.

For 2011, MPCB plans to distribute a ‘Diwali box’ consisting of rangoli, tulsi leaves and soap as a part of its eco-friendly endeavour. But noise pollution activist and founder of Awaaz, Sumaira Abdulali, feels the MPCB can do a lot more since noise rules are not found to be implemented in totality. “The MPCB and the environment department can ensure that the Noise Rules are implemented along with the Hazardous Chemical Rules, which fall under the Environment Protection Act (EPA). They too can carry out checks,” she said.

Fireworks rules yet to be notified

Sayli Udas Mankikar
mumbai: Three years ago, the state home department had formulated rules to regulate the usage of fireworks.

But nothing has been heard about them since.

In 2008, the Mumbai police commissioner submitted an affidavit to the high court in a hearing on a PIL related to noise pollution.

The affidavit included the draft ‘Bombay Prohibition and Regulation of Fireworks Rules, 2008’.

But the rules, which call for stringent punishment for noise and air polluters, have not been notified as yet.

Strangely, neither the police nor the home department officials, seemed aware of the draft rules.

“I will find out about this and give you an update,” said Senior PI Lohakare, in charge of the arms and ammunition department that handles the issue of firecrackers.

Senior home department officials too were not sure about the fate of the rules.

The draft rules were clear -- they called for restricting usage of firecrackers in places of worship. They also talked of a complete ban on bursting of firecrackers on public passageways like roads, expressways, highways, flyovers and other common areas.

Firecrackers were to be banned in areas within 100 metres of sanatoriums, old age homes and children’s hostels, apart from silence zones like schools and hospitals.

The rules recommended that violators could be booked under the Bombay Police Act 1951, which prescribed a hefty fine and imprisonment.

“ These rules were submitted to the court in 2008 while replying to the public interest litigation we filed on noise rules. But the matter does not seem to have moved ahead. It would have been significant considering it was directly drafted by the implementation authority,” said Sumaira Abdulali, noise pollution activist and founder of Awaaz foundation.