Mumbai: BMC bans firecrackers amid fear of second wave of COVID-19
Photo Credit: AFP

Amid fear of the second wave of Covid-19 hitting the city and Diwali festival around the corner, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Monday imposed a ban on the bursting of firecrackers in public places under its jurisdiction. The Mumbai civic body its circular said that the use of soundless firecrackers like 'phooljhadi', 'anar' allowed between 8 pm till 10 pm on Diwali/ Laxmi Poojan day (November 14) only.

It also banned hotels and other commercial establishments to conduct fireworks shows. The civic ward officers have been directed to action against violators under the Epidemic Control Act 1897 and Disaster Management act 2005. "We have been asked to take help from local police to control the crowd and penalise violators who are seen bursting crackers."

While on Sunday in his address to the state, CM Uddhav Thackeray hinted that there would not be a ban on firecrackers across the state, he urged the citizens to avoid polluting the environment by bursting firecrackers.

Whereas BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said the corporation was hoping to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 by having a cracker free Diwali. "The number of cases has gone down in the last two months, so has the death rate across Mumbai. The hazardous chemicals from bursting firecrackers and even noise will make the effects of deadly covid19 even more harmful. We all need to understand our responsibility and contribute to society."

Appealing to the citizens to avoid bursting crackers Chahal added, " Let us strive to have a cracker free Deepavali festival this year to save our great city of Mumbai from the possible second wave of covid19. We can jointly make this possible."

The BMC circular further states that on the evening of November 14, citizens will be allowed to use mild fireworks like 'phooljhadi', and 'anar' but within the respective housing society premises in a limited manner, but no fireworks will be allowed in public places. The circular sent out by BMC comes days after the Maharashtra government discussed a firecracker ban in the cabinet. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also ordered a blanket ban on firecrackers in cities where the air quality is bad and asked states to come up with guidelines for places with moderate air quality.

National Green Tribunal (NGT) is expected to pronounce its final order on the firecracker ban today. According to the circular, violators will be booked under the Epidemics Act and Disaster Management Act. The circular also cautions people that hand sanitisers and disinfectant liquids could be inflammable so adequate care is taken while using them around firecrackers.

The state government through its circular had on Thursday appealed to the people of Maharashtra to celebrate a firecracker-free Diwali, keeping in mind that the resultant smoke could create health issues for people suffering from Covid-19. However, no decision was taken on the ban. Environment and Social activists however feel that merely banning citizens from bursting the firecrackers is not the right way, the sale of firecrackers should be clamped down too.

Sumaira Abdulali, convenor of NGO Awaaz Foundation said: "The ban is for individual use of firecrackers which are freely available in the market. Awaaz Foundation conducted a test on the chemical content of commonly available firecrackers and found that all of the tested crackers contained toxic chemicals and many contained barium, banned by the SC. Last year's test o similar crackers conducted with MPCB also showed that many exceed decibel levels permitted to be used in residential areas. It is shocking that these dangerous crackers will continue to be available for sale and that the responsibility for not using them is solely that of those who burst the crackers. In a city like Mumbai, a single violator will cause health complications to thousands of nearby residents including the effects of noise and air pollution in private areas. The government, while acknowledging the added complications of firecrackers on Covid19 sufferers, has permitted harmful crackers into people's hands. The responsibility for strict implementation at the time of use falls squarely on them. Awaaz Foundation will check noise and air pollution levels on Diwali night."

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