The Delhi government on Monday announced that it was reimposing the ban on the production, sale, storage and use of all types of firecrackers in the National Capital Region as part of its plan to control pollution levels in the winter months.

This is the third consecutive year that the Delhi government has imposed a ban on sale and use of firecrackers.

In winters, Delhi’s air quality drops to “very poor” or “severe” categories due to several factors, including lower temperatures, wind speeds, industrial pollution and stubble burning in neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab. The Air Quality Index also often drops further around Diwali, when firecrackers are burst.

Due to the emissions from firecrackers, the concentration of ultra-fine PM2.5 particles multiplies manifold. PM2.5 are very small particles usually found in smoke and can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty in breathing.

Last year in October, the city had recorded eight consecutive days of “poor” air quality.

At a press conference on Monday, Environment Minister Gopal Rai said that the Delhi Pollution Control Committee will be directed to implement the ban.

“There is still time for Diwali, but this decision has been taken today because every year, licenses are issued for the sale, manufacture and storage of firecrackers,” said Rai. “That process of giving licenses usually begins now. This year, licenses will not be issued by the police for sale, storage, or manufacture of firecrackers.”

Rai said that the national capital has experienced a considerable decline in pollution levels in the last few months. “But the situation is still not favourable,” he said, urging other states to also ban firecrackers for successful pollution control.

The minister also emphasised that while religious beliefs should be followed, people safety should also be kept in mind. He said that collective efforts are necessary to save lives.

“We Delhiites will celebrate Diwali with lights and lamps,” Rai added.

The move has drawn sharp criticism on social media from Bharatiya Janata Party functionaries, who called it “an attack against Sanatana Dharma”.