Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said the state pollution control board has imposed a ban on firecrackers without consulting the government.
“We’ve taken note of this,” Sarma said in a tweet. “The entire issue is being reviewed afresh, holistically, keeping people’s sentiments in mind.”
On October 22, the Assam Pollution Control Board had banned the sale and bursting of all kinds of firecrackers in the state till further orders.
In a notification, the board said that residents are allowed to only burst green crackers between 8 pm and 10 pm on Diwali, between 6 am and 8 am on Chhath and between 11.55 pm to 12.30 am on Christmas eve and New Year’s eve.
For any other festivals, residents need permission from the deputy commissioners for bursting green crackers for a two-hour duration.
The board said that the order was issued in compliance with the directives of the National Green Tribunal.
“Bursting of fire crackers releases copious amounts of harmful chemicals, which have severe impact on the respiratory health of vulnerable groups and such pollutants can further aggravate the health conditions of Covid-19 positive persons besides persons staying in home isolation,” the state pollution control body added.
The board also asked the district magistrates, commissioners and superintendents of police to implement the order and submit daily action reports.
An official of the pollution control board told The Indian Express that they cannot comment on the government’s response to the ban.
“We are only answerable to the NGT [National Green Tribunal],” the official said. “If we do not follow their directive, we will be pulled up.”
The official said the board had reasons to be cautious, considering the air pollution, the coronavirus situation in the state and the possibility of a third wave the pandemic.
The official said the Air Quality Index level in Assam rises after Diwali, “especially in places like Guwahati, Tinsukia and Nagaon”.
Last year, the AQI had risen by 65 points, from 108 to 173, a day after Diwali in Guwahati. An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”.
In 2020 too, the state pollution control board had announced a similar ban following guidelines from the National Green Tribunal. Sarma, the then health minister of the state, had said that the government has not planned any restrictions on use of firecrackers during Diwali.
In September this year, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee too banned the sale and bursting of firecrackers up to January 1, 2022.