Indian capital to ban firecrackers ahead of pollution season

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A general view of the Lodhi Garden on a smoggy morning in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's capital New Delhi is to ban firecrackers to ease the burden of winter pollution on its longer-suffering residents, though likely taking some of the fun out of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, next month.

The city of about 20 million people is the world's most polluted capital and the air becomes particularly bad from mid-December to February, as cold air traps dust, vehicle emissions and smoke from burning crop stubble in nearby fields.

"In order to save people from the danger of pollution in Delhi, like last year, this time also the production, storage, sale and use of all types of firecrackers are being completely banned," the city's environment minister, Gopal Rai, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

"This time there will also be a ban on online sale/delivery of firecrackers in Delhi".

Rai did not say exactly when the ban would come into force but in the past two years, similar bans were imposed before Diwali, when people set off firecrackers with abandon, filling the air with smoke.

Rai's office said the date of the date of ban would be announced this week. He said it would end on Jan. 1.

Some Hindus say the ban on firecrackers during Diwali is an attempt to interfere with their religion.

(Reporting by Tanvi Mehta and Krishna N. Das; Editing by Tom Hogue, Robert Birsel)