On Diwali (Saturday), citizens of the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) area made a mockery of the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s ban on the sale and use of all kinds of firecrackers in the region and health warnings by doctors (including the fact that there is a high risk of pollution exacerbating Covid-19) by bursting polluting crackers without any concern for fellow citizens or the environment. This activity and stubble burning had an immediate impact on the air quality index: It dipped to “severe” across the region on Saturday night. On Sunday, the weather improved with both wind speed and direction dispersing pollutants rapidly.
On November 9, NGT banned the sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in NCR from November 9 to 30, saying “celebration by crackers is for happiness and not to celebrate deaths and diseases”. This show of open defiance by citizens underlines two challenges: One, the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana either don’t have the desire or the wherewithal (or both) to implement such a ban, and tackle overall pollution. And, second, the repeated warnings on the ill effects of pollution on health, have still not had the desired impact on citizen consciousness. This irresponsible streak was also visible in the crowds in the run-up to the festival, which is contributing to Delhi’s third wave of the pandemic. If both governments and citizens are so lackadaisical about air pollution and its ill effects, even in the midst of a raging climate crisis and a pandemic, the Delhi-NCR region will struggle to get the clean, blue skies, good air, and the quality of life that it should aspire to.