New Delhi, Oct 11 (PTI) Experts today pitched for celebrating a smoke-free green Diwali and urged the government and the public to take necessary steps to create a pollution free environment during the festival of lights.

Leading pulmonologists urged the public to revive traditional practices such as planting saplings, lighting earthen lamps, creating rangolis with eco-friendly colours, and using traditional oil diyas and wax candles as a first step towards combating the dangerous levels of air pollution in Delhi.

Popular public figures like Virat Kohli, Kapil Dev, Rohit Sharma, Virender Sehwag and Nina Gupta have also lent their support to the campaign by a citizen’s group — #MyRightToBreathe — by sharing videos and pledges on their social media accounts.

Resident welfare associations and NGOs are also coming together to sensitize and encourage people for the same.

“We owe it to our children to give them clean air to breathe,” said Dr Anupam Sibal, senior paediatrician and group medical director at Apollo hospitals groups.

“The number of children with respiratory problems increases after Diwali and continues in winter months as air quality deteriorates. We should work together to not repeat what had happened last year where schools had to be closed because the air had become so dangerous to breathe,” Sibal said.

Dr Arvind Kumar, Chief Thoracic Surgeon of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said there has been a rapid rise in the incidence of lung cancer in India due to various causes, including smoking and pollution, and urged that pollution be declared a major health issue.

“When I had started 25 years ago, most of the lungs of the non-smokers were pink but smokers had black lungs. But today when I operate, I find lot of non-smokers including some teenagers having black lungs.

“Pollution should be declared as major health issue and emergency major maneuvers have to be taken to bring it down,” said Kumar.

Each year, Diwali festivities leave the air in and around Delhi thick with smog and suspended particulate matter, leaving residents and children feeling breathless and vulnerable to asthmatic attacks.

In view of the rising pollution levels at this time each year, and to assess the impact on the air quality, the Supreme Court on October 9 issued a ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR till November 1.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.