INTERNATIONAL - Fireworks will not be sold in New Delhi around Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, India's Supreme Court ruled Monday, saying it wants to assess the impact the fireworks have on air quality in the highly polluted city.
The top court had stopped the sale of fireworks last November, after a petition was filed calling attention to alarming levels of air pollution in the city. The ban was temporarily lifted in September.
Three children, who filed the original petition, approached the court requesting that the ban be restored. The judges ruled that the ban will be reinstated until October 31, well after Diwali is celebrated on October 19.
"This is the first step in a long fight to clean up the air in the city," Saurabh Bhasin, father of Zoya Rao Bhasin, one of petitioners, told reporters. New Delhi, the capital city of India, is among the most polluted cities in the world. Every year, millions across Delhi and the country celebrate Diwali by setting off firecrackers, leaving cities immersed in smoke.
"We should see at least in one Diwali the impact of a cracker-free festivity," the judges were quoted as saying by local media, noting that air quality reports did not study pollution around Diwali since the ban was not in place during last year's festival. How the order will be implemented in practice remains to be seen, because it does not ban setting off firecrackers - meaning that those who have already procured them can still light them.
Environment campaigners have praised the ruling, saying it will raise awareness about the hazardous air pollution in the city. "For the first time in my time in Delhi, we are going to see a perceptible difference in air quality," Bhasin said.