Every year, since my childhood, I have come to dread Diwali for myriad reasons. The celebration of what is perhaps the biggest Hindu festival, Diwali, has transitioned from being a festival of lights to becoming a festival of sound. It is astonishing how people have ‘celebrated’ a festival, in a manner which raises sound and air pollution, coupled with encouragement given to the manufacturing of the biggest crook of the season – firecrackers.
It is very evident that firecrackers are polluters, but the hidden story behind their manufacture goes unnoticed and ignored. Hundreds, if not thousands, of children are employed in the racket of producing this very carcinogenic substance and the unethical means of this servitude is appalling, considering episodes of fire accidents in these factories.
The newspapers on the days following Diwali are filled with tragic stories of children losing their eyes and being subjected to traumatic respiratory disorders. The monotony and repetition of such news has come to mark Diwali every year. Authorities have taken little, if not no remedial measures to curb such incidents, often blaming it on the carelessness of the victim.
Air pollution and noise pollution reach record levels during Diwali. They add to the already depleting air quality in metropolises like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. The noise emitted by the firecrackers reach, on a usual, 150 decibels, which is 20 decibels over the limit permitted by the World Health Organisation. This is at least twice the level of sound in everyday city traffic (which is about 75-90 decibels). The chances of permanent disability and impairment of auditory senses is taken very casually during Diwali, yet the chances are very much present.
There is another side-effect that is completely ignored. Rising anxiety levels during Diwali pose a serious threat to people dealing with mental health issues. Such increased apprehension may lead to hyper-ventilation with serious life-threatening consequences. It is unfortunate that this issue is not discussed while deliberating on the negative effects of bursting firecrackers during Diwali.
There are many more consequences of this unwarranted mania for bursting firecrackers. The disposal of residual garbage from firecrackers after the festival is an added burden to our already insufficient garbage disposal mechanism.
The silence of the minuscule population of birds and animals in our cities is a proof to the excess of sound during this festival. It is absolute foolishness to ‘burn money’ only to create irritating noise and polluted air. It is high time we try to celebrate Diwali with consideration given to our environment. The darkness of the evils of oppression and cacophony can be banished with the true spirit of celebration, only if we change the way we celebrate this great festival.