NGT bans sale of firecrackers across NCR
Traders in Sivakasi and Delhi in a fix as air quality remains ‘severe’ in capital
Shreya Jai & T E Narasimhan
New Delhi/Chennai, 9 Nov
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday ordered a complete ban on the sale and use of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR) from midnight Monday till November 30. The ban would also cover any city or town where the air quality goes below the ‘poor’ category on the Air Quality Index (AQI).
As Delhi and adjoining cities battle worsening air quality, NGT said the threshold of pollution is continuously crossed in NCR and, therefore, an “absolute” ban was needed.
Last week, the Delhi government banned firecrackers in the Capital. It was followed by Haryana, which also announced complete ban of sale and burning of firecrackers, then retracted and allowed this for two hours.
Governments of Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Union Territory (UT) of Chandigarh, and the Calcutta High Court have already issued orders for ban on sale and use of firecrackers in the respective states/city.
The enforcement of the NGT’s orders, however, will remain with local authorities. “The chief secretaries and director general of police of all the states/UTs may issue and circulate an appropriate order in above terms with appropriate enforcement guidelines to all the district magistrates and superintendents of police, state pollution control boards,” NGT said in its order.
This announcement has left traders in Delhi in a fix. Most of them blamed the government for inaction and policy confusion. “If the government had to ban firecrackers, why give licence? All wholesale traders buy crackers 1-2 months in advance to get good prices. Now, when peak sale period has arrived, the sale is banned,” said Pammi Makan, vice-president in Sadar Nishkarm Welfare Association at Sadar Bazaar, Delhi. Sadar Bazaar is city’s largest wholesale market for firecrackers.
He said licences were not issued when the ban was imposed two years ago and that saved shopkeepers from the massive losses they will see this year.
A Supreme Court judgment of October 2018 specified the restrictions on sale and use of firecrackers during poor air quality season.
“The business is damp anyway due to Covid. With this ban, any large trader could be looking at a loss of close to Rs 15-20 lakh approximately,” Makan said.
Fireworks manufacturers at Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, which contributes 90 per cent of crackers sold in the country say traders from NCR and other parts of Northern India have started cancelling orders and communicated that they will not be able to pay for products.
T Asaithambi, past president of Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (Tanfama) said, “During last two years, the industry was bogged down in production of green crackers. Covid-19 has added to problems,” he said
He added that if sales are banned it will delay realisation from dealers. “This will in turn impact our loan repayments and payments to our raw material suppliers,” he said.
A Tanfama executive said the impact of the NGT order will be felt for at least two seasons and there would be normalisation only from the third year, provided no other adverse orders are passed.
“Not only firecracker makers, the entire ecosystem including printing, paper boards, transportation and others who are dependent on the industry will be impacted and over a million jobs will be at stake,” said the executive.
The production value of firecracker factories in Sivakasi is about Rs 2,500 crore and retail sales are about Rs 6,000 crore. The production value in the current year is estimated to be about Rs 1,800 crore.
Traders in Delhi said given the stock has arrived with shopkeepers, there will be a black market of firecrackers.
“When shops were shut in 2017, firecrackers were available online and through black market route. It will happen this year too. Police can only shut shops, how will they stop each household that burns firecrackers,” said a trader at Sadar Bazaar, requesting anonymity.
NGT has allowed bursting of green crackers for two hours for cities/towns where air quality is ‘moderate’ or lower.
The average AQI of Delhi-NCR crossed the maximum ‘severe’ category on Monday morning with the PM2.5 levels touching 527, according to the SAFAR dashboard of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.