The festival of lights, Diwali, is round the corner and, if it is business-as-usual, pollution levels will hit the roof, as they do every year.
But municipal bodies are waking up to the problem, and chalking out plans -- read, restrictions -- to keep air and noise pollution levels in check.
Every year during Diwali festivities, the bursting of firecrackers pushes up pollution levels across the country.
According to the National Air Quality Index provided by the Central Pollution Control Board in 10 cities last year, particulate pollution, especially at the dangerous PM 2.5 level was hovering between 200 and 500 in cities like Muzaffarpur, Lucknow, Faridabad, Kanpur and Agra.
This year, several cities are taking measures to restrict the rise in air and noise pollution levels.
The municipal bodies of cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi are imposing restrictions on firecrackers. To show they are serious about it, they are even calling in the police to enforce the rules, as in Bengaluru.
On whom the onus lies
Environmental activists say that the onus of checking firecracker pollution ultimately lies on citizens.
"Every year, municipal bodies come up with rules to curb pollution levels during Diwali. However, if people don't follow the rules, then these measures are futile. We need to create awareness among people about the dangers of harmful firecrackers," said a Bengaluru-based environmentalist.
See what restrictions apply in four major cities:
In its latest venture, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has banned bursting of all crackers above 125 decibels in the city. Moreover, residents can lodge complaint with either the police department or Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) if they think that bursting of crackers is causing noise and air pollution.
The board has sent a circular to BBMP officials in this regard. The KSPCB has directed the BBMP to notify local areas about the do's and don'ts to be observed during the festival days.
The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi has urged residents to celebrate a firecracker-free Diwali. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has written to the department of customs (import and general) to make sure that harmful imported firecrackers do not make it into the city.
During the festival, officials of pollution controlling agencies will keep an eye on increase in pollution levels in the capital. Strict instructions have been issued by officials of municipal bodies so that noise levels don't exceed beyond healthy degrees. There is also a ban on bursting of firecrackers between 10PM and 6 AM in Delhi.
In has been a while since activists have been asking the government to check astonishing rise in pollution levels during Diwali. In this regard, officials of municipal bodies have already started checking samples of firecrackers being sold for Diwali. A recent testing of samples of firecrackers revealed decline in noise levels as compared to previous years. However, there was a rise in air pollution levels from crackers.
As per directives of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), only safe and pollutant free firecrackers will be allowed to use for celebrations.
The Kolkata police directed vendors not to sell any foreign firecrackers, especially Chinese made. The reason: they have very high sound decibels.
This year, the city municipal bodies have banned around 90 firecrackers because they contain high levels of pollutants.