The Delhi government on Wednesday banned the storage, sale and use of firecrackers in the national capital during the Diwali season due to concerns over hazardous air pollution levels.
The move mirrors that by the ruling AAP last year, when pollution levels were also linked to the wider spread of COVID-19. The city saw a spike in cases - a seven-day average of around 6,000 per day- as air quality dipped in the week after Diwali.
"In view of the dangerous condition of Delhi's pollution during Diwali in the last three years, like last year, a complete ban is being imposed on storage, sale and use of all types of firecrackers. (This is) so that people's lives can be saved," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
Mr Kejriwal acknowledged last year's ban had been imposed late and led to losses for traders.
He indicated the lateness of the ban also led to some traders continuing to stock and sell firecrackers - which then contributed to Delhi's worst air quality levels (on the day after Diwali) in four years.
Air quality in the national capital was 'severe', with PM2.5 levels nearly six times the safe limit. PM10 levels were about 10 per cent over the safe limit; in some areas this figure was significantly higher.
"In view of the seriousness of pollution after the stocking of firecrackers by trader... last year a complete ban was imposed late, which caused losses to traders. It is an appeal to all traders... in view of the complete ban, do not store or sell firecrackers," he tweeted.
पिछले साल व्यापारियों द्वारा पटाखों के भंडारण के पश्चात प्रदूषण की गंभीरता को देखत हुए देर से पूर्ण प्रतिबंध लगाया गया जिससे व्यापारियों का नुकसान हुआ था। सभी व्यापारियों से अपील है कि इस बार पूर्ण प्रतिबंध को देखते हुए किसी भी तरह का भंडारण न करें।— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) September 15, 2021
Air pollution levels in Delhi - ranked in March as the most polluted capital city in the world - have long been a debate between those who insist on bursting firecrackers and environment and health experts.
In 2018 the AQI crossed the 600-mark, which is 12 times the safe limit.
Despite these concerns, last year many defied the law - and rules by the National Green Tribunal, which banned firecrackers in the National Capital Region from November 9 to the end of the month.
Other states, including those ruled by the BJP, refused to fully implement a ban; Assam said there would be no restrictions as "Hindus have right to celebrate" and Haryana offered a two-hour window.
In addition to firecrackers, air pollution in Delhi during the festival session is made worse by stubble burning - a contentious practice - in neighbouring states like Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.