Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar today appealed to the public to refrain from using firecrackers during the festive season and urged people to "don't even use green firecrackers" that were unveiled only 24 hours earlier by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. Speaking to reporters in Delhi, Mr Javadekar also listed steps taken by the centre to combat air pollution levels in the national capital, with the subject likely to be a key issue when Assembly elections are held next year.
"I'd say don't even use green firecrackers... I'm sure kids will tell parents and grandparents not to buy," he said, adding, "But if you must celebrate please use the green firecrackers".
On Sunday, Harsh Vardhan announced that environment-friendly firecrackers designed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) would "reduce minimum emissions by 30 per cent".
In 2018, just before Diwali, the Supreme Court banned the manufacturing of ordinary firecrackers and ruled that only green crackers, with reduced emission, could be sold. The court also said firecrackers could only be burst between 8 pm and 10 pm.
Despite the order the air quality index (AQI) in Delhi reached a severe low, recording 302 at 11 pm and falling into the "very poor" category, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
With elections expected next year, Mr Javadekar appeared keen to impress that air quality had improved and that the centre had played a role in that reduction, pointing out that there had been an 80 per cent reduction in Particulate Matter (PM) emissions.
"46 specific teams have come into the field from today to stop pollution. There has been an 80 per cent reduction in vehicle pollution with introduction of BS-6," he said, praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the setting up of air quality monitoring centres in the National Capital Region and introducing the BS-6 standard from April 2020.
Mr Javadekar's comments come after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, last month. tweeted photos of "clear, blue skies", highlighting one of those rare times when the city appeared to not be struggling for breath.
These are pictures of our beautiful Delhi taken today, from the top of the Signature Bridge— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) September 26, 2019
It has been many years since I have seen such clear, blue skies. We have to work together to keep Delhi's air clean. pic.twitter.com/IwfsH5Gvq3
"Pollution levels have come down in Delhi recently, and we're determined and committed to bring them down further and that's why we've decided to introduce these steps," Mr Kejriwal said, referring to the decision to bring back the "odd-even scheme" from November 4 to November 15.