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Cracker crackdown on Delhi’s cleanest November day

In the past 24 hours, Delhi Police seized over 800kg of firecrackers from seven shops in north and west Delhi, continuing with their drive after the Supreme Court’s order.

delhi Updated: Nov 06, 2018 11:24 IST
Jayashree Nandi and Karn Pratap Singh
Jayashree Nandi and Karn Pratap Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi pollution,Delhi air quality,Diwali
Vehicles move through Delhi- Gurugram Expressway amid dense smog and air pollution, in Gurugram, India, on Sunday, November 04, 2018. (Photo by Yogendra Kumar/Hindustan Times)(Yogendra Kumar/HT Photo)

Delhi breathed the cleanest November air in at least three years on Sunday and an official of the central pollution control agency said the city’s air quality could be relatively better this Diwali due to weather conditions and last month’s Supreme Court order allowing the sale and use of only “green” and “low emission” firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR).

In the past 24 hours, Delhi Police seized over 800kg of firecrackers from seven shops in north and west Delhi, continuing with their drive after the top court’s October 23 order. Petitioners, officials and experts say the ruling effectively bans all fireworks in NCR since crackers classified as ‘green’ or even ‘low emission’ are yet to be manufactured and sold.

The weatherman said easterly and southerly winds, coupled with a western disturbance, made for a pleasant, breezy Sunday. The air quality index was at 171, which is in the “moderate” category. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said this was the first time since 2015 — when the AQI system was developed — that a “moderate” day was recorded in November, when the air quality usually hovers in the “very poor” or “severe” zones.

But the respite might be temporary. From Monday, northwesterly winds are likely to bring pollutants back in Delhi’s air from Punjab and Haryana, where farm fires are continuing though the numbers of such cases are seeing a gradual decline. The burning of crop stubble in these states is considered as one of the reasons behind Delhi’s toxic air quality at this time of the year.

Still,CPCB member-secretary Prashant Gargava said cracker sales appear to have fallen after the ruling by the apex court, which has announced curbs on the use of fireworks across the country.

“We have been informed that there have been a crackdown on cracker godowns, and cracker markets are closed in Delhi. Plus, even though winds will be northwesterly before and during Diwali, IMD (India Meteorological Department) has informed us that wind speed will not fall to zero — which means there will be some movement,” Gargava said, explaining why weather conditions would not be completely hostile for the dispersal of pollutants on November 6 and 7. Diwali is on November 7.

The police, which have seized over 2,500kg of crackers since the court order, have not issued temporary licences to small traders. Those with licenses, too, appear to be in a fix since they don’t have the court-mandated “green” fireworks in their stocks.

Mandeep Singh Randhawa, deputy commissioner of police [central], said, “We are not denying licences, but they [sellers] will have to prove that they will sell green crackers. If they get us a clearance from PESO [the government body authorised to monitor explosives], we’ll give them the permits,” he said.

According to a 2017 affidavit to the top court and explanations offered by the country’s explosives regulator [Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation or Peso] , green firecrackers refer to products that do not contain metals such as barium, aluminium and iron which release toxic gases, but such products have not yet been manufactured for sale.

The minimum temperature in Delhi on Sunday was 18 degrees Celsius and the maximum was 29.7 degrees. On Diwali, the minimum temperature is likely to fall to 13 degrees, said the weather department. Snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh is likely to bring down Delhi’s temperatures by 3-4 degrees Celsius over the next few days, said IMD deputy director general BP Yadav.

Pune-based System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting Research (SAFAR) predicted that AQI on November 5 will be 309, which is in “very poor” category, and the next day it will be 315, also in “very poor “category.

Farm fires will continue in Punjab till November 15, said Harinder Singh Lakhowal, the general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). “Crop fires have reduced considerably because of government crackdown,” he said.

First Published: Nov 04, 2018 22:41 IST