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What The SC's Firecracker Ban In Delhi-NCR During This Diwali Says About Us

FYI: India has topped the list of countries with pollution-related deaths in 2015.

20/10/2017 2:00 PM IST | Updated 20/10/2017 2:01 PM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Did the firecracker ban imposed by the Supreme Court of India on Delhi-NCR, ahead of Diwali this year, turn out to be a case of sound and fury signifying nothing?

The answer to this question depends as much on the empirical data as on public perception, especially of those living in the region and forced to breath the polluted air there through the year, and worse, during the most toxic autumnal and winter months.

Let's begin with the data.

According to reports, the Central Pollution Control Board reported that pollution levels in Delhi are lower compared to the air quality recorded during Diwali in 2016. The Air Quality Index (AQI) value on Thursday was 319, or in the very poor category category. Contrast this number with last year's AQI, which hit severe level after recording an index value of 431.

NDTV screengrab

SAFAR, or System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research, found that the 24-hour average of PM2.5 and PM10, ultra-fine particulate matters that can enter the human bloodstream, were 154 and 256 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively, at around 11 pm. Both these numbers are at least 10-20 times the permissible limits for such pollutants in the air.

Of course, in certain parts of Delhi, the levels were much higher, with PM2.5 and PM10 crossing 800 and 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre around the same time in RK Puram.

Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Since the burning of crops by farmers in Haryana and Punjab lead to air pollution around this time of the year in Delhi-NCR, many are of the opinion that the firecracker ban is pointless unless the states are able to stop these farm fires.

Adnan Abidi / Reuters

In another article on HuffPost India, Shivam Vij said, "It is not reasonable to argue that if we are unable to stop farm fires, Diwali firecrackers must be allowed to pollute the air as well." As case studies show, farm fires alone do not causing the heavy cover of smog over Delhi. Those who deny or underplay the correlation between firecrackers and air pollution are merely perpetuated an insidious perspective.

Unfortunately, the cost of such petty politicking is apparent from the numbers. Here's a piece of (hopefully terror-inducing) news for those who are aggrieved by the firecracker ban or flouted it with impunity: India recently topped the list of countries with pollution-related deaths in 2015, according to a report by Lancet, the medical journal.

As many as 2.51 million people in the country have died prematurely that year due to diseases linked to air, water and other forms of pollution. India accounted for about 28% of an estimated 9 million pollution-linked deaths worldwide in 2015, as the study further found.

If these numbers fail to jolt the public into becoming more conscious of the damage they are causing to the environment, as also to the generations to come, no court order or state ban can hope to have any lasting impact on us either.

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