FIREWORKS BAN: AN INTERPLAY BETWEEN ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTITUTITONAL LAW
Author: Harshita Dixit, III year of B.B.A.,LL.B from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.
"There is sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed."
The Environment Protection Act defines the term 'environment' under section 2(a). The section includes air, water, land and the relationship which exists amongst humans, flora and fauna. Environment in the layman's definition is everything, what we are, what we see and what we are surrounded with.
It is important for all of us to realize that without the environment humans cannot exist. Environmental protection is described as saving the environment from the terrible actions done and taken by humans by exploiting natural resources to fulfil their own needs. We all can realize that atmosphere is in a critical condition due to the over exploitation and unchecked activities of humans. It is the need of the hour to protect and preserve the environment without any further delay. Sustainable development is the best option for conserving the environment without compromising the needs of the present as well as for the future generations. Environmental protection deals with interaction between needs of humans and the environmental system. Issues like loss of biodiversity, deforestation, excessive mining, and land degradation are the key factors resulting in catastrophic effects for the environment and directly impacting human’s health. We are the ones directly as well as indirectly impacting and creating a negative effect on the environment.
The aim of environmental protection is saving the environment from being exploited due to over population, greed of humans, poverty, technology and overconsumption of various resources for commercial as well as industrial purposes. There are three fundamental principles of environmental protection:
Precautionary Principle- It is stated that an activity or a scientific investigation is conducted which might impose a threat on the environment; it is a social responsibility to have an approach for risk management. Some of the cases in which precautionary principle shall be implied are threat to human lives, fatal to both humans and environment, cause severe injuries and possess irreversible actions.
Polluter pays principle or 3Ps: It is also known as extended producer responsibility where the polluter is held accountable for the loss incurred to human life or environment due to their conduct of activities. It is compulsory for all industries to build efficient pollution control and prevention technique, waste management and proper drainage system for the betterment of the society.
Doctrine of public trust: It is the right of the citizens of the country to know about any foreseen risks or threat to the environment. The government maintains certain resources for public use; it applies to both air and soil.
Certain laws are envisaged in Indian constitution and other statutes to protect and preserve the environment, describing management of resources, usage of resources like forests, fisheries, minerals, etc. Indian constitution expressed the importance of protection and providing equality amongst all through various articles. Article 14 of Indian constitution states that the state shall treat every human being equal in the eyes of law. The right to live in a healthy environment is described under article 21 of Indian constitution, the heart of Indian constitution. The demand for protection and preservation has been in the conversation since the Stockholm conference held in 1972. With the development in industrialization and globalisation, it has become extremely important to ensure a safe environment and protection of environment. The government of our country has established various statues and acts to protect like water act, air act, forest act, and certain laws through judgements on a regular basis to ensure safety.
On the occasion of Diwali, a lot of pollution is observed all over the country especially in Delhi. Fireworks contain toxic and harmful substances which when burned create an unhealthy environment. The quality of air is reduced to extremely unhealthy and in some areas it drops to severe and harmful to breathe. The harmful chemicals result in various breathing problems amongst all ages of humans; scare the pets, animals living on the street as well as the birds and wildlife. We fail to see the plight of those numb creatures that face this horrific sight only because we think that fireworks are our way of celebration. The question is at what cost are we celebrating the joy of festivals, weddings or even victory of India in any cricket match?
When we burn fireworks we release toxic substances and explosives into the air in the form of smoke. The chemicals are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and many more, these gases are solemnly responsible for causing greenhouse effect. This results in the formation of increase in smog i.e. smoke+fog in the atmosphere. These substances enter into our throat and reaches lungs, which causes long term respiratory problems. Pregnant women and senior citizens are at the highest risk being prone to victims of such negative effects of fireworks. Fireworks increase the particulate matter in the level of air and decrease the air quality. However, there are green fireworks which can reduce such effects. These crackers do not use barium nitrate, the most dangerous chemical responsible for the degradation of environment, these crackers are approved and developed by National Environment and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research i.e. CSIR laboratory. These crackers use potassium nitrate and carbon instead of arsenic and other harmful chemicals. The decibels of sound emerging out of regular fireworks produce up to 200 decibels but green crackers limit their sound up to 130 decibels.
In the year 2018, the apex court passed a judgement based on a petition filed by Arjun Gopal who lost their kids due to degradation of air quality and increasing pollution levels. The petitioner requested a ban on fireworks which involved any kind of explosives. The court held that fireworks violate certain provision of Indian constitution including Article 48A and Article 51A, right to healthy environment. These explosives are also violating to article 21 that elaborates the right to live.
The impact of fireworks on the environment has been analysed by the proceedings initiated by National Green Tribunal as a suo-moto action. The court noticed that there had been a lot of risks to the human beings as seen by everyone due to COVID-19 and it became necessary to take into interests of the citizens to protect them from the bad pollutants present in air pollution. Some of the measures are:
A total ban of bursting fireworks from November 9, 2020 to November 30, 2020 in cities with poor air quality.
In cities of having average air quality, fireworks can be allowed to be busted for two hours.
During the time of Diwali and Gurpurab, the timings to burst crackers would be 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., on occasion of Chatt Pooja the timing would be 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
All states shall allow the usage of green crackers for the purpose of bursting and must be controlled by Central and State Pollution Control Boards.
The Delhi Government ordered to ban all kinds of sale and purchase of fireworks till January 1, 2023. The penalty of bursting crackers could attract a fine of 200 rupees and a jail term of up to six months. However, the production and storage of crackers can attract a fine of 5000 rupees and a jail term for three years under section 9B of the Explosives Act.
In view of all the facts and evidence indicating the catastrophic effects of burning fireworks, manufacturing for the sale and purchase of fireworks shall and will threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people, the health of humans, wildlife and create suffocation for the environment. A ban on the production of such fireworks would result in closure of this industry and put a lot of people’s income in jeopardy, but we cannot ignore the long lasting effects of these fireworks. The actions caused by them are irreversible and cannot be altered nor can we undo. Therefore, it is necessary for all of us being responsible citizens to create a proper balance between what we want and what shall be done. The right to live in a healthy environment is a provision provided for our safety amongst for the future generations as well. The government and apex court have found an alternative for such harmful substance i.e. green crackers. Though there are certain restrictions put forward to the manufacturing and time period in which these crackers have to be busted.
It is our responsibility to take into account the conservation of environment and carry out our responsibilities to address this issue. We must follow the provisions not just to avoid the fine or a jail term but rather exhibit a moral responsibility to shield our Mother Nature and preserve it to make a better place.