Monday, November 09, 2020

India court bans firecrackers in pollution-hit cities citing virus surge - France 24

India court bans firecrackers in pollution-hit cities

India's environmental court on Monday ordered a ban on firecrackers during the country's biggest annual festival in cities battling hazardously poor air quality, citing a link between pollution and a coronavirus surge.

The National Green Tribunal said the role of pollution in the Covid-19 crisis meant that the ban was needed ahead of Diwali celebrations on Saturday.

Traditionally, millions of firecrackers are set off during Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, but the practice has been blamed for worsening air pollution -- especially in northern India which suffers from serious smog every winter.

The tribunal, whose powers are similar to a regular court, said that pollution caused by fireworks was an "aggravating risk to lives and health". It said a general ban in all cities with rising air pollution should last until November 30.

India has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections in the world, and experts have raised concerns about air pollution worsening the symptoms of respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19.

The capital New Delhi and the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Maharashtra and West Bengal have already halted or restricted the sale and use of firecrackers.

The tribunal said the ban in Delhi must be "absolute" because of the pollution crisis and rising Covid-19 cases.

State authorities in the rest of the country are considering allowing one-hour windows on Saturday for setting off firecrackers.

Delhi on Sunday reported 7,750 coronavirus cases in a day, a record since the start of the pandemic with hospitals reporting that intensive care beds are running out.

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