India’s Supreme Court on Friday banned the sale of firecrackers in the capital region, reflecting a growing sense of urgency after a thick smog engulfed Delhi for 10 days early this month, trapping its population of 20 million in dangerous concentrations of polluted air.
The parents argued their children’s lungs were not yet developed enough to handle the increasing pollution in the city. Delhi, with 16 million people, is one of the world’s most polluted cities.In recent years it has got noticeably worse around Diwali when huge quantities of fireworks are set off. On Friday, the Supreme Court suspended the “possession, stocking and selling” of fireworks in Delhi and its neighboring suburbs “until further orders”. The court also directed pollution control authorities to “study harmful effects of materials used in firecrackers in three months”.
As recent as November 2016, New Delhi was the world’s most polluted city. The air quality has since improved, though it is still far from safe limits. The auspicious Hindu festival sees many people light crackers in celebration. It was later found out that burning of crop stubble in the nearby states was the bigger cause of air pollution in New Delhi.
The fireworks set off during the Hindu festival of Diwali in September caused measurements of tiny lung-clogging particulate matter PM 2.5 to reach dangerous levels above 300 micrograms per cubic meter. A UNICEF report says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries, risking serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains, and other organs.