Even as the Supreme Court’s directions to burst crackers between 8 pm to 10 pm were flouted at many places in Punjab on the day of Diwali, the State’s air quality data show decline in the pollution levels this year.
As per reports from many parts of the state, many people indulge in bursting of crackers on Wednesday even before the two-hour timings allowed by the Apex Court, throwing to the wind all directions and warnings by the court and the government.
While the police claimed that they have kept an eye on the violation of the Supreme Court guidelines, and action would be initiated against the defaulters, it failed to provide exact numbers against whom the action has been taken for the violation.
On the other hand, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) claimed that the State, this year, took a lead to celebrate green Diwali.
The State’s air quality data, collected by the state pollution control board, show that Punjab’s average air quality index was 234 on Diwali day this year, against the figure of 328, recorded in 2017 on Diwali. “This indicated at a very encouraging decrease of 29 percent in the air quality index (AQI), hence the better quality of air this year than the previous ones,” said the Bioard member secretary Krunesh Garg on Thursday.
Garg said that the data has been collected by the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations established at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Khanna, Mandi Gobindgarh and Patiala.
Stating that the figures are “very encouraging”, Borad chairman Prof SS Marwaha said that awareness campaigns against bursting of crackers launched by the State Government and the non-govt organizations (NGOs) have started showing the results.
“Last year, average PM10 was 430µgm/m3 and PM2.5 was 226µgm/m3 whereas this year, these are 277µgm/m3 and 126µgm/m3 respectively,” he said.
Prof Marwaha pointed that there was 36 percent and 44 percent reduction in PM10 and PM2.5 levels respectively than the previous year which is a very encouraging trend. He attributed it to the school and college students who had come forwarded to say ‘no to cracker bursting’.
Marwah thanked the Punjabis for obeying the Supreme Court directions and celebrating the Green Diwali this year.
A day before Diwali, the Punjab Government had issued strict instructions to all Deputy Commissioners, Police Commissioners, Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) and Regional Officers of Punjab Pollution Control Board to ensure no bursting of crackers outside allowed time limit.
The directions, to ensure strict compliance of the Supreme Court’s order regarding not allowing bursting of crackers beyond the stipulated timeframe of two hours on Diwali, were issued by the state Environment and Climate Change Department considering the growing air and noise pollution which rises to serious proportions.
All the concerned authorities have been ordered to maintain strict vigil on Diwali night to stop bursting of crackers outside the allowed limit of 8 pm to 10 pm only. The SHOs of the concerned Police Stations were made personally liable in case of any violation, and strict action would be initiated against them.
Notably, the crackers not only release obnoxious molecules in the air but also release Particulate Matter (PM), both PM 2.5 and PM 10, increasing the level of air pollution. These gases and PM 2.5 has the potential to directly enter into ones lungs which may cause irreversible damage especially to the children and old people.
Pertinently, Supreme Court has ordered banning of all kind of fire cracking before 8 pm and after 10 pm on Diwali and Gurpurab night. On Christmas eve and New Year eve, when such fireworks start around midnight, that is 12 am, the bursting of crackers have been allowed from 11:55 pm till 12:30 am only.