New Delhi, Oct 19 (EFE).- The authorities in New Delhi announced Wednesday that burning firecrackers in the Indian capital during the Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights – next week will be punishable by up to six months in prison.
The announcement comes as a measure to reduce the high air pollution that New Delhi experiences during this time of the year, starting with Diwali, when a haze of toxic smoke from the burning of firecrackers covers the sky for days immediately after the festival.
Those who buy and burn firecrackers will be liable to face punishment of up to six months of imprisonment and a fine of 200 rupees (around $2.4), the capital’s environment minister Gopal Rai announced via video conference.
Moreover, those responsible for manufacturing, storing and selling the firecrackers could face fines of “up to 5,000 rupees (about $60) and three years in prison,” he added.
Although the burning of firecrackers has become a tradition during the Hindu festival of Diwali, the widespread prevalence of this practice leads to a thick blanket of toxic haze in and around the capital every year.
To avoid a similar scenario this year, the Delhi authorities have announced the deployment of 408 teams with a total of 1,289 personnel to enforce the firecracker ban and take action against those flouting it.
Last year, the morning after Diwali, New Delhi recorded concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 – particles with a diameter of less than 10 microns and 2.5 microns respectively – several times higher than what is considered “toxic” by the World Health Organization, according to India’s leading environmental monitoring agency SAFAR.
This year, the city’s air quality monitors have already registered AQI above 162 so far.
On the night of Diwali, several monitors in the capital reach the maximum possible of 999 units on the AQI scale.
On the AQI scale, values above 100 are considered dangerous for children, the elderly, and people with breathing or heart problems, while above 300 is considered dangerous for the general population.
Apart from firecrackers on the night of Diwali, other factors that contribute to the deterioration in air quality in the country are coal burning, toxic gases generated by the construction sector, emission from private vehicles, and biomass burning in rural areas. EFE