Three infants, Arjun Gopal, Aarav Bhandari and Zoya Rao Bhasin, aged between 6 months and 14 months, being the youngest petitioners before the Apex Court, have filed a PIL through their legal guardians, praying for urgent measures to bring down the "fatal" pollution level in the national capital, Delhi.
Filed by Advocate Pooja Dhar and to be argued by lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan, the plea demands, among other things, a complete ban on use of firecrackers, sparklers and explosives during festivals.
It has also sought an interim stay before the ensuing Diwali celebrations. It has demanded that the temporary fireworks/ fireworks licenses granted by the licensing unit of the Delhi Police be stayed. A stay on sale of firecrackers by any individual has also been demanded, pending the outcome of the petition.
The Petition reasons that fireworks generate a variety of air pollutants, like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, in addition to aerosols or particulate matter that worsens lung conditions like asthma. It has hence sought details from Delhi government on steps taken to reduce pollution, especially pollution caused by Particulate Matter of different sizes.
"The quality of air in major cities in India is degrading by the day due to heavy traffic and industrialization, but this needless new gimmick in the name of celebration is posing a risk not only to us but our children and generations of Indians yet to be born. The amount of toxins and particulates released by fireworks are well documented by various research studies and scholarly papers. Apart from air pollution, the harmful effects through noise pollution due to fireworks is also well documented and particularly in the development of the children of our country," it submits.
The plea states that while considerable debate and long-term measures are being discussed by "slow moving state machinery for implementation of measures to control pollution levels in Delhi", the highest court of the land was "duty bound" to take interim steps in effectuating the people's right to clean, healthy and breathable air under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
In order to substantiate its stand, the petition relies on several research reports on ambient air and noise quality in India during Diwali as well as news reports that have catalogued level of pollution in Delhi. These reports show that the air quality drops significantly during Diwali and exposes humans to a greater risk of pollution related diseases. These studies also confirm that the effects of fireworks activity in degrading the air quality continue to linger for several days after Diwali day.
It cites a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 on the ill effects caused by air pollution in children. This report states that there is a causal relationship between air pollution and health effects in children as also between air pollution and low birth weight, premature births and intrauterine growth retardation. As per the report, there is also considerable evidence of a causal link between ambient air pollutants and childhood morbidity and mortality.
The Petition negates any defence based on Article 25 of the Constitution by stating that there is nothing in the religious texts of any major religion practiced in India that advocates or calls for the use of firecrackers in celebrating festivals.
Besides blaming firecrackers in the months of October and November due to Dussehra and Diwali, the petitioners submit that a majority of the pollution in Delhi is caused by over 500 million tons of crop residue burning that happens in the States around the capital, by polluting trucks that pass through the city at night and road dust and industry.
Therefore, the PIL also seeks a ban on burning of seasonal crops, strict action against those who dump dust, malba and other pollutants without following rules and immediate introduction of Bharat-V or better emission norms into operation uniformly across country.
Appointment of an expert committee consisting of key stakeholders from the legal ecosystem has also been prayed for. This committee would be charged with the function of reviewing the working of the state's efforts at curbing environmental degradation caused specifically by ambient air pollution and suggesting institutional reforms with a view to make the environment more robust and healthy for not just our sake but for future generations as well.
Image from here.
Read the Petition here.