The resident welfare associations of Delhi and two doctors' associations have jointly appealed to the people to observe a cracker-free Diwali this year in view of raging pandemic and uncontrolled pollution level grappling the national capital.
"Diwali is meant for a reunion with friends and family and the spirit of togetherness. However, given that the coronavirus-led pandemic is in rage, aggravated by the rising pollution, there are more reasons to ensure safety now than ever before. It is time to think about all the things to do in order to keep this Diwali safe for residents of Delhi," said the joint statement released by the United Residents Joint Action (URJA), a network of over 2,500 RWAs of Delhi, Lung care foundation and Doctors for Clean Air.
The organisations appealed to the residents not to burst firecrackers during festivals and weddings, instead, prioritise electrical and traditional lighting over crackers and fireworks.
The organisations also appealed all to mandatorily wear masks while stepping outside home, maintain social distancing, and protect vulnerable groups (children and elderly) from exposure.
"Every year we witness an apocalyptic climate with the highest level of air pollution. Meanwhile, as the country continues to battle with the Covid crisis, any increase in air pollution from bursting crackers can take a toll on the existing patients of respiratory diseases, especially when the air quality in Delhi continues to remain in 'very poor' to 'severe' category," said Atul Goel, president, URJA.
"This year the risk has doubled because of the spread of coronavirus. Long term exposure to air pollution is known to increase the risk of Covid-19 infection as well as mortality. Given that we are a nation with the world's highest rate of death from respiratory disease, the consequences of not acting now will be catastrophic for Delhi," he added.
The Delhi government has put a blanket ban on the sale and burst of firecrackers in view of an unprecedented rise in the pollution level. Meanwhile, some groups have equated the ban on crackers as an assault on religious freedom.
Commenting on this, Rajiv Khurana, founder-trustee of the Lung Care Foundation and Doctors for Clean Air said such people are not just ignorant about their health, but also about the health of others, including their friends and family. "I don't understand why they are hell-bent on the infusion of poison into the body? Are they so naive that they can't fathom the impact the pollution is causing to their health?" he asked.
"What if I come to someone's house and offer a box of sweets with a revelation that it contains a small amount of poison insignificant to kill but enough to make you fall sick, would you accept that? Same is the argument of crackers. Our air is already unfit to breathe. Any further contamination will result in more fatality. Researchers have suggested that an increase of just one micron in particulate matter could increase death risk by eight per cent," Khurana added.