The Uttarakhand government on Wednesday allowed the bursting of green crackers with a two-hour window in six urban areas of the hill state during the upcoming festivals while complying with the guidelines issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The tribunal had issued a directive to curb the worsening air quality index (AQI) that could further aggravate the unprecedented raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in the country.
The Trivendra Singh Rawat-led government allowed the public to burst green crackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on the occasion of Diwali and Gurupurab and from 6 am to 8 am for Chhath Puja.
An order, issued by Om Prakash, chief secretary, Uttarakhand, said: “Only green crackers will be sold in the urban areas of Dehradun, Haridwar, Kashipur, Rudrapur, Rishikesh and Haldwani in the state. Crackers can be burst for only two hours in these six urban areas.”
Anoop Nautiyal, the founder of Dehradun-based think tank Social Development for Communities that works on environmental issues, said, “Air pollution is a silent killer. However, the issue in Uttarakhand may not be as grave as Delhi-national capital region (NCR). But pollution has increased drastically in the hill state in the past few years. We need to do much more than lift the ban for two hours to arrest the decline in air quality.”
The state government should clarify what it means by “green crackers in a bid to ensure understanding and correct implementation of the (NGT) guidelines,” Nautiyal added.
The NGT has directed cities with “moderate” AQI to only allow the sale of green crackers and restricted timings to burst them during the upcoming festivals.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) categorises AQI levels in the 0-50 range as good; 51-100 as satisfactory; 101-200 as moderate; 201-300 as poor; 301-400 as very poor; and 401-500 as severe.
Green crackers have 30% lower emissions of toxic gases than traditional firecrackers and they do not contain barium nitrate, a metal oxide that increases both air and noise pollution.