SC modifies order on firecracker sale in Delhi-NCR

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"There must be a concerted effort by the powers that be to ensure awareness and sensitisation of the people in Delhi and NCR, particularly children, of the health hazards of indiscriminate use of fireworks", it said.

"Have the steps already taken by the concerned authorities reduced air pollution during Diwali?".

Referring to the choking effect of breathing in polluting air post 2016 Diwali, the court said: "In the absence of any concerted plan of action implemented by the governmental authorities, the residents responded in an ad hoc manner by purchasing face masks and air purifiers".

In November past year, the court had suspended all licenses for sale and retail of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR.

Similarly, the court said that Delhi police has issued directions that are hard to enforce such as restricting the time during which fireworks can be burst.

The apex courts order came on the application filed by manufacturers and suppliers of fire crackers, primarily based in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, seeking relaxation of its earlier order.

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The court said that those granted licenses will be permitted to possess and sell only 50% of the quantity permitted in 2017 and it will substantially reduce over the next couple of years.

While lifting its suspension of valid permanent licences, a bench headed by a Bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur said that a graded and balanced rather than a radical approach was required to deal with pollution menace in the city.

However, it passed various directions for regulating temporary licences. The bench noted that the Delhi government's response was "lethargic with the absence of any keenness to take proactive steps". This is disconcerting. It is high time that governmental authorities realize that the cost of ill health (particularly among children) is far greater in psycho-social terms than in financial and economic terms. It observed that only general directions were issued in the past to schools to sensitise the students and staff about the ill-effects and health hazards of bursting fireworks. "The health of children should be of foremost concern in this regard", it said.

Accepting that there is a lack of clarity on the safety limits of various metals and constituents used in fireworks, the order directs the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Fireworks Development Research Centre (FDRC) to jointly conduct a research for laying down appropriate standards for ambient air quality in relation to the bursting of fireworks and the release of their constituents in the air.

"...a complete ban on the sale of fireworks would be an extreme step that might not be fully warranted by the facts available to us".

Past year on November 11, the apex court has ordered suspension of all licences permitting the sale of fireworks, wholesale and retail within NCR till further orders.

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