The Supreme Court on Monday re-imposed the ban on sale of fireworks in Delhi-NCR, saying there was “direct evidence of deterioration of air quality” every year during Diwali on account of bursting of crackers.

A three-judge Bench, headed by Justice A K Sikri, upheld the November 11, 2016 Supreme Court order, suspending all licences that “permit sale of fireworks wholesale and retail within the territory of NCR”. The ban will remain in place till November 1 though Diwali falls on October 19.

The apex court had last year imposed a ban on the sale of crackers when pollution spiked several times the normal level, post Diwali. The level of PM2.5, one of the most keenly observed pollutants, had risen as much as 14 times the normal on the night of Diwali last year. The court had in September lifted the ban temporarily, but a petition was filed to re-impose it.

Even as environmentalists welcomed the order, traders and industry bodies are up against it.

Keep pollution in check “This will play a crucial role in regulating air pollution in the region and reduce the impact on human health. The ban will ensure that the levels of air pollutants do not reach as high as they did last year around Diwali,” said Ajay Mathur, Director-General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

If the current weather conditions are any indication the burden of air pollution is likely to be lower this year during Diwali.

Sumit Sharma, Associate Director, TERI, said, “Last year, Diwali was later in the year and it was colder. Wind speeds generally reduce in colder conditions.” He added that if the favourable weather conditions (higher temperatures, clear skies) continue, it could help dissipate pollutants faster.

Delhi traders fume The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), however, is crying foul, saying this decision would impact traders in Delhi more than those in the neighbouring States.

In a statement, CAIT National President BC Bhartia and Secretary-General Praveen Khandelwal, said: “The Supreme Court has imposed a ban on sale of crackers in Delhi-NCR, but there is no ban on bursting of crackers. The possibility of people buying crackers from other States and bursting them in Delhi-NCR cannot be ruled out and in such cases Delhi traders will be in a disadvantageous position and will lose business to their counterparts in other States. This distinction between Delhi traders and rest of India traders seems to be unjustified.”

Sivakasi units hit The decision is likely to hit firecracker manufacturers as well. A combined effect of demonetisation, GST and the Supreme Court ban on sale of firecrackers in Delhi has brought down production by Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi-based manufacturers from ₹3,000 crore last year to ₹2,000 crore this year, according to industry estimates.

Around 800 units, employing nearly eight lakh people, are currently operating in Sivakasi. For these manufacturers, North India accounts for about 90 per cent of the market, and Delhi alone accounts for about 30 per cent of the total fireworks sales in the country.

According to K Mariappan, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association, production took a hit as the industry grappled with cash crunch post demonetisation and 28 per cent tax under the GST regime, which would increase the price of fireworks by 16 per cent.

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