The National Green Tribunal on Monday issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and four state governments on the ban of firecrackers from November 7 to November 30 in the interest of public health and environment, India Legal reported. The notice was also issued to Delhi commissioner of police, the Central Pollution Control Board, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh K Goel said that reports in the public domain showed that deterioration of air pollution may lead to a rise in Covid-19 cases while considering a petition seeking a ban on fireworks.

The petition was filed by Indian Social Responsibility Network. In its plea, the organisation referred to the statement of Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain that there would be a rise in coronavirus cases during the festive season because of air pollution.

“Increased pollution may further affect the vulnerable groups and increase the fatality rate,” the notice said. “Covid-19 cases in Delhi may go up to 15,000 per day as against 5,000 per day.” It added that firecrackers would not improve the situation but create a gas chamber-like situation, leading to poor visibility, hazy conditions and asphyxia.

The tribunal said that the Supreme Court has earlier dealt with the firecracker matter and acknowledged the effect of increased air pollution on health. It, however, said that the Supreme Court did not consider the Covid-19 situation when the adverse effect can be so severe that fatality among children, senior citizens and other vulnerable persons may increase. “Number of diseases may also increase,” the tribunal said. The Supreme Court orders and directions were passed before the coronavirus first emerged.

In 2018, the Supreme Court had ordered that only firecrackers with reduced emission and ‘green crackers’ can be manufactured and sold. ‘Green crackers’ are expected to produce reduced emission of harmful chemicals as they do not contain banned chemicals such as lithium, arsenic, barium and lead. Green crackers release water vapour and do not allow dust particles to rise.

The National Green Tribunal noted that the air quality index in Delhi was averaging between 410 and 450, which is under a hazardous category. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51-100 falls under “satisfactory” zone, 101-200 is “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor” and 401-500 is “severe” category.

“Firecrackers emit poisonous gases like SO2 [Sulfur Dioxide], NOX [Nitrogen oxides], CO [Carbon Monoxide] as well as the metal besides creating noise,” it said. “In the given climatic conditions, this may result in respiratory/pulmonary diseases, diabetic, hypertension and other diseases.”

The bench listed the matter for further hearing on November 5.