City Buzz: SC cracker ban | Delhi air quality dip | NGT rap for Kochi… and more

Been busy? Catch your dose of important news from across India's cities in this weekly edition of City Buzz.

Supreme Court imposes partial cracker ban ahead of Diwali

A PIL against the bursting of firecrackers during Diwali has led to restrictions imposed by the apex court on the type of crackers allowed and the time frame during which they may be used. The SC verdict has specified the time during which crackers can be burst, restricting the window to between 8 pm and 10 pm. A ban has also been imposed on ladis or series crackers.

Only the sale of green crackers that are less polluting and less harmful to the environment are permitted. The court also restricted the sale of crackers online through e-commerce websites such as Amazon and Flipkart.

The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association is set to file a petition for clarification on the verdict and seek more time for compliance with the order. There is considerable skepticism over the feasibility of implementing the order as it comes so close to the festival. Most of the fireworks manufactured in the hub of Sivakasi have been dispatched. The mechanism to monitor the fireworks on sale to determine if they are ‘green’ is not in place. The scale of celebrations will also make it difficult for authorities to enforce the stringent terms of the SC order.

Source: The Times of India | The Economic Times

Delhi air quality declines rapidly

The air quality in the national capital declined rapidly due to a combination of factors such as crop burning, low wind speed and a drop in temperature. The Air Quality Index (AQI) registered  a four-month high pollution reading, clocking it at 331 on Wednesday, October 24th. With crop burning not yet approaching peak volumes, the situation is expected to only get worse in the coming days. A fire at the Bhalswa landfill has also compounded the situation in north-western parts of Delhi.

The government swung into action to arrest the decline in air quality through a slew of measures such as the stopping of construction and coal-based activities in the region until November 10th. Yet the PM10 and PM2.5 levels have been found to be seven times the limit prescribed by WHO. With the air quality falling in the ‘very poor’ category, the coming of Diwali festivities may tip the AQI above 400, pushing Delhi into the ‘severe’ category in terms of pollution.

Source: NDTV | The Wire | Firstpost

Mumbai’s wait for additional lifeguards prolonged

A Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) standing committee has stalled the proposal to appoint more lifeguards in six beaches of the city due to the contract being awarded to a firm that has ties to an entity blacklisted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). The move came after it was revealed that the firm that was awarded the contract for lifeguards and the firm that has allegedly defrauded the MTDC were run by two brothers and even shared the same e-mail id.

The fire brigade proposed to hire 81 additional lifeguards to bring the total number of lifeguards manning the beaches of the city to 93, at a cost of Rs 10 crores for a three year period. The city’s beaches have seen many instances of drowning in recent months, with four youths losing their lives in Juhu beach and one death at Versova beach in the last four months.

Source: The Hindu | Free Press Journal | Firstpost | Times of India

NGT slaps fine on Kochi civic body

The south bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) slammed the Kochi civic body for delay in construction and operation of the Brahmapuram waste management plant. The tribunal has slapped a fine of Rs 1 crore on the local body and an additional performance guarantee fee of Rs 3 crores. The order stipulates that the civic body perform the necessary tasks within the next six months or face further fines of  Rs 1 lakh per day of the delay.

The plant in question has been found to act as a dump with leachate from accumulated waste flowing into the nearby river. Dumping of mixed waste, particularly after the recent floods has been a key issue. The civic body has included the plant in its budget as a multi-year project but leachate treatment facilities and scientific treatment of waste has been absent, leading to accumulation of garbage, resulting in complaints from local residents.

Mayor Soumini Jain, has, however refuted the allegations stating that the waste management facility was conceptualised as a project of the state government, and was to be executed by a private entity. The Kochi Municipal Corporation (KMC) played a role in allocating around 20-acres of land to the private contractor. The KMC plans to file an appeal against the directive of the NGT.

Source: The Times of India | The New Indian Express | The Hindu

Visakhapatnam envisioned as FinTech hub

The recently concluded Vizag FinTech Valley Festival marked a step towards the Andhra Pradesh government’s stated aim of turning Visakhapatnam into a hub for the financial technology industry. The fest saw the signing of MOUs between the state and corporate players such as Deloitte and HSBC. The Chief Minister, in his address, envisioned that the area will attract an investment of Rs 500 crores and generate 15,000 jobs.

The fest saw the beginning of collaboration with HDFC Bank, Whub of Hong Kong, Fintech Association of Hong Kong, SOSA of Israel, Singex, Wadhwani Foundation, Bizoforce and Udayam Association. The foundation for the initiative was laid in 2016 with the goal of creating a viable climate to attract suitable investors to the city.

The AP government has courted various players in the industry in a bid to replicate the success seen by Hyderabad (now in Telangana) as an Information Technology hub.

Source: The Times of India | The Economic Times

[Compiled by Aruna Natarajan]

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