Indian court eases firecracker ban even as pollution soars

WHO listed 14 Indian cities, including Delhi, in the world’s top 15 with the dirtiest air. (AP)
Updated 23 October 2018
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Indian court eases firecracker ban even as pollution soars

  • Diwali festival is on November 7
  • Every winter, air pollution in Delhi soars as cooler air traps harmful particles from the various emissions

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Tuesday eased a ban on fireworks for a major Hindu festival despite air pollution in New Delhi and other cities again reaching danger levels.
The Supreme Court, which last year banned firecrackers for the Diwali festival, rejected a new call for a ban in the capital amidst growing concern over pollution.
Firecrackers set off for the Hindu festival of lights add to the toxic mix created by farmers burning crop stubble, diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.
The World Health Organization in May listed 14 Indian cities, including Delhi, in the world’s top 15 with the dirtiest air.
Ahead of Diwali on November 7, the Supreme Court ordered that only reduced smoke fireworks — so-called ‘green firecrackers’ — could be sold and that this must be through licensed traders. No fireworks can be sold online, it said.
The court has also set a two hour window from 8:00pm to 10:00pm for the lighting of crackers on Diwali.
“It needs to be enforced strictly,” Gopal Sankarnarayan, a lawyer for the petitioners told NDTV television.
Last year, the Supreme Court suspended the licenses of all firecracker sellers in Delhi for one month because of the pollution crisis which leaves the Indian capital’s 20 million residents gasping for clean air during the winter months.
However, many ignored the ban and purchased crackers illegally or brought out old stocks.
Every winter, air pollution in Delhi soars as cooler air traps harmful particles from the various emissions.
Smog has climbed in recent weeks as temperatures have fallen and smoke from burning wheat fields in neighboring states has reached the capital, mingling with urban pollutants.


Afghan interior minister resigns to join President Ghani’s election team

Updated 12 min 2 sec ago
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Afghan interior minister resigns to join President Ghani’s election team

  • Under Afghanistan’s electoral system, all members of government except the president and vice president must step down in order to run for office
  • The political landscape is dominated by ethnic loyalties, personal alliances and often-unstable coalitions between powerful regional leaders

KABUL: Afghan Interior Minister Amrullah Saleh stepped down from his post on Saturday in order to run for the vice-presidency alongside President Ashraf Ghani who plans to bid for a second term in July’s election.
The former top security official told Reuters by phone that he had resigned and two political sources said he would join Ghani’s team.
“He wants to contest for the post of vice president,” said a source from the presidential palace in Kabul.
Saleh, who commands strong support among Afghanistan’s minority ethnic Tajiks, had been expected to oppose Ghani in the election, which has been pushed back from April to July.
Under Afghanistan’s electoral system, all members of government except the president and vice president must step down in order to run for office.
In December, Ghani appointed Saleh, a former security official and an uncompromising opponent of the Taliban, to his government in a bid to secure the support of former opponents for a second term.
Afghan forces have been dying in record numbers in the face of a resurgent Taliban. US President Donald Trump is considering slashing the number of American troops in the country in half. However the White House says there has been no official order.
Afghanistan’s presidential race is now in full swing, with several former officials and politicians lining up to challenge Ghani who is expected to register his candidacy for a second term on Sunday.
Former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose fighters killed thousands in Kabul during the bloody civil war of the 1990s, joined the presidential race on Saturday.
The political landscape is dominated by ethnic loyalties, personal alliances and often-unstable coalitions between powerful regional leaders.
“Ghani’s decision to include Saleh in his presidential bid reflects how alliances are being formed quickly and ideological differences are being ignored,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul.