The Bombay High Court on Monday directed municipal corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region to ensure that people burst firecrackers only between 7 pm and 10 pm, Live Law reported.

The restrictions on firecrackers ahead of the Diwali festival were among a series of directives that a division bench of Chief Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Girish Kulkarni issued in a case pertaining to air pollution in Mumbai.

Air pollution in the Mumbai metropolitan region has worsened since October, with the air quality index crossing 200 at several points in the past month. An air quality index ranging between 200 and 300 falls under the “poor” category.

At 10.30 am on Tuesday, Mumbai’s overall air quality index stood at 159, according to real-time figures from the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research. An air quality index ranging between 100 and 200 falls under the “moderate” category.

But the level of the PM2.5 fine particles was recorded at 228 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of the city such as the Bandra Kurla Complex. Particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (or about ten-thousandth of an inch) is particularly dangerous to human health. Such particles are small enough to travel deep into the respiratory system, potentially impairing lung function.

To be considered safe, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards require PM2.5 concentration in air to be less than 60 micrograms per cubic metre in any given 24-hour period.

At the hearing on Monday, Justice Kulkarni said that the Maharashtra government must choose between celebrating the festival with firecrackers or having a “disease-free environment”, according to Live Law.

“The state government will have to take a call,” the judge said. “We cannot even walk on the footpath… With the entire city being affected in this manner, the state government will have to take a decision. We can’t depend only on the nature.”

The High Court also ordered the movement of construction debris to and from construction sites to be halted till Friday. The bench said that it may consider banning construction material from going in and out of the region if the air quality does not improve by Friday, Live Law reported.

The court said that assistant municipal commissioners of wards in Mumbai will be held personally accountable for lapses in implementing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s air pollution mitigation plan, The Times of India reported.

The Mumbai Air Pollution Mitigation Plan, issued by the corporation in March, mandates that waste should not be burned in the open. It also states that at construction sites, water should be sprinkled and metal sheets should be set up to confine pollutants.

The court also directed the setting up of a two-member committee comprising the director of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and the director of health services in the state government to monitor the actions taken by the municipal corporations on a daily basis.

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