According to Wikipedia, India celebrates 151 festivals in a year. That’s a huge number. This means that for almost half of the year we are celebrating something. And I believe we celebrate life. Out of which, Diwali is the most famous and largely celebrated holiday in India as it marks the Hindu New Year. It signifies the victory of good over evil. But for certain years, we are doing more harm than good on this very auspicious day. We are harming the current generation of life as well as the future generation that is yet to come. There something wrong with the way we celebrate it that not only makes us suffer but also our future children.
Diwali was traditionally celebrated with earthen diyas and distribution of sweets to friends and family. But today it involves bursting of firecrackers, suffocating smoke, ear-tearing noises, never-ending garbage and everlasting pollution.
One of the major concerns of a developing nation like us is environmental pollution. On Diwali, pollution just shoots up like a rocket (it goes up by 30%). It is estimated that for every hour of fireworks display, the compound ‘strontium’ increases by 120 times (in small amounts it is harmless but in larger amounts it causes damage to bones and can cause blood clotting disorders) in the air. Not only that, but magnesium also increases by 22 times, barium by 12 times, potassium by 11 times and copper by six times. Firecrackers also contain traces of heavy metals that are toxic to the human body. Additionally, at this time when issues of climate change and global warming are being presented with a sense of urgency, we need to be concerned about the number of greenhouse gases fireworks produce, which includes Carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone. It’d take the entire lifetime of 5,000 trees to offset the 60,000 tons of carbon emissions produced in this one day!
Also the noise pollution it creates cannot be overlooked, fireworks can create 140 decibels of noise (noise at 85 decibels or above can damage hearing). Diwali is a nightmare for dogs and other animals who get scared of loud sounds (dogs can hear 4 times more than us, imagine the pain and agony).
These are just the things that happen on the day of Diwali. The real problem comes after d-day. The roads are filled with bits of paper and plastic. Approximately 4,000 additional metric tonnes of garbage are released in Delhi alone, and twice the amount in Mumbai. In Bangalore, garbage collection is increased by 800 to 1000 tons during these times whereas Chennai produces 50 tons more of this garbage. That’s a lot of scrap!
There is another disturbing fact related to fireworks used during Diwali. More than 80 million children are employed in the firework industry around the world; majority being in India. Asthma and TB is prevalent among 90 per cent of them who are involved in gun powder filling and are directly in contact with the chemical ingredients of crackers. So buying fireworks indirectly contributes to child labour.
We are the educated ‘lot’ of the society and yet we are responsible for encouraging such practices. Buying crackers is an utter waste of money and is harmful for the environment too. Nowadays, Diwali is not a simple festival of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, rather it has become more of a show of one’s own status. It is not an event of ‘coming together’ of family and friends only, it is also a pompous show.
There are so many other ways to celebrate Diwali. Light up your homes (diyas, candles), meet people (spend it in an orphanage or old age home), make your own sweets and distribute, play with your little ones, plant trees (buy house plants), go hiking and more.
Let’s celebrate Diwali keeping in mind that it’s not our earth to keep, we have merely borrowed it from our children. Let’s not do more damage than we have already done. Let’s do our own bit to save the earth. This Diwali let there be friendship, love, light, and life rather than smoke, noise, garbage, injury and pollution.
Live and let live.