18:46 GMT01 December 2020
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    Medical professionals in India have warned that the winter season will heighten COVID-19 infections, especially during the ongoing festive season, when air pollution goes up. A 2018 study by two Indian scientists at the University of Minnesota in the US estimated that the particulate matter PM 2.5 increases almost 40 percent after Diwali.

    As India revels in the season of festivals despite the many challenges posed by COVID-19, Rajasthan has enacted a new provision that makes the sale and bursting of firecrackers punishable. The western state has thus become the first in country to impose a complete ban on the sale and use of festive fireworks. 

    Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said on Monday that the decision was mainly aimed at protecting the health of COVID-19-infected patients.

    “State govt has taken the decision to ban the sale and bursting of firecrackers in order to protect health of COVID19 infected patients & public from poisonous smoke emanating due to fireworks”, said Gehlot in a tweet.

    Dr Arvind Kumar, the chairman of the Centre for Chest Surgery at Sir Gangaram Hospital and founder of the Lung Care Foundation in New Delhi, told Sputnik in an earlier interview that if the air pollution levels rise there, would be an increased incidence of COVID as well as increased mortality.
    "The pollution-afflicted communities have weak lungs and weak immunity. When they are exposed to the same dose of coronavirus, they have a higher chance of acquiring, contracting the infection as compared to their healthy counterparts and have more chance of death if they get the disease", he explained.  
    Meanwhile, in the national capital Delhi, the local government has announced that only environmentally friendly "green" firecrackers will be allowed during the forthcoming Diwali - the festival of lights. 

    “Crackers cause massive air pollution. Keeping in mind the air pollution situation of Delhi, we have decided that this year only manufacturing and use of green crackers will be allowed. This decision is as per the Supreme Court order of October 23, 2018”,  said Gopal Rai, environment minister of Delhi, on Wednesday, 28 October.

    India’s apex court imposed major controls on firecrackers in 2018. It allowed "green" firecrackers and fixing a two-hour window period for bursting them during major festivals, while ruling out a blanket ban.  

    “The crackers with reduced emission (improved crackers) and green crackers, only would be permitted to be manufactured and sold”, read the Supreme Court of India's order dated 23 October 2018.

    A year after the top court order, India’s federal Science and Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced that laboratories under his ministry had successfully developed "green" firecrackers with “reduced emission”.

    "I am happy to announce that we have green crackers with reduced emission by minimum 30 percent. These are environment-friendly”, said Dr Harsh Vardhan on 6 October 2019.

    Delhi witnesses a steep spike in air pollution during the winter months starting the festive season. A recent study published by the University of Minnesota in the United States suggests that over a period of two days, Diwali adds about 40 μg/m3 to PM 2.5 particulate concentrations.

    Currently, India has an active load of 561,908 positive cases of COVID-19, while 122,607 people succumbed to the viral infection, according to data released on Monday by the federal Health Ministry.

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    Tags:
    firecrackers, air pollution, Rajasthan, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi, India
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