MUMBAI: Amid fears of the city being stricken by a second wave of Covid-19 and with Diwali around the corner, the BMC has imposed a ban on the bursting of firecrackers in public places under its jurisdiction.
However, the use of soundless firecrackers like 'phooljhadi' or 'anar' would be allowed between 8 pm and 10 pm on Diwali/ Laxmi Poojan day (November 14) only; this, too, within the housing society premises in a limited manner, but no fireworks would be allowed in public places.
The civic body's circular has also banned hotels and other commercial establishments from hosting fireworks shows. Ward officers have been directed to act against violators under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the Disaster Management Act, 2005. "We have been asked to take help from local police to control the crowd and penalise violators," said a civic official.
In his address on Sunday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had hinted there would be no ban on firecrackers across the state; instead, citizens were urged to avoid polluting the environment by bursting firecrackers.
However, 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 and so has the death rate across Mumbai. The hazardous chemicals emitted by firecrackers and even the noise will make the effects of Covid-19 more lethal. We all need to understand our responsibility and contribute to society."
Appealing to residents 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 a possible second wave of Covid-19. We can jointly make this possible."
The circular sent out by the BMC comes days after the Maharashtra government discussed a ban on firecrackers. 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.
According to the circular, violators will be booked under the Epidemic Diseases and Disaster Management Acts. The circular also cautions people that hand sanitisers and disinfectants could be inflammable, so adequate care should be taken while using them around firecrackers.
The state government, through its circular last Thursday, had 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 firecrackers is not the right way, there should also be a clampdown on their sale.
Sumaira Abdulali, convener of the 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 of similar crackers conducted with the MPCB also showed that many exceed permissible decibel levels 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, as well as noise and air pollution in private areas. The government, while acknowledging the added complications of firecrackers on Covid-19 sufferers, has permitted harmful crackers into people's hands. The responsibility for strict implementation at time of use falls squarely on them. Awaaz Foundation will check noise and air pollution levels on Diwali night."
"Banning firecrackers in public places is a welcome step of the government. But allowing them in housing societies and in front of homes is more dangerous, as it is going to adversely impact the health of children, senior citizens and Covid-19 patients. It may increase asthma and respiratory diseases. Diwali is a festival of light, not sound and pollution. When the entire city, state and country are faced with a red alert of the worst form of air pollution, this is certainly not the time to encourage prevalent bad practices that emerged in society but ban them permenently," said Bhagwan Kesbhat, founder, Waatavaran, an environmental organisation .