I remember how, since childhood, I have always been fond of celebrating festivals because for me it presents a break from the daily routine and offers time for social gatherings and also lets us enhance our cultural ethos. The various stories and epics related to festivals also help us discuss the relevance of the past with the present, and to understand the moralities present in our social settings. We learn from the stories and apply the same to our own lives.
There is so much we can do during festivals, for instance, artistic things like rangoli (traditional decoration patterns on the floor), poem recitation, dancing or singing, and a lot more. But during, Diwali, I wonder why those moralities do not help us to apply our learnings towards the environment!
Diwali as a festival is said to mark the victory of Lord Rama but I had never, in any scriptures, read about the use of crackers to celebrate the same. We should make our festivals more ‘creative’ instead of turning it into something that harms nature.
Taking the issue further, we need to understand that it is we who should change our habits in order to suit the environment. If we really notice, we will find changes in the climate even without looking into facts or figures by organisations. For example, it is the end of October and it’s raining in my city, an unseasonal occurrence. The quality of the air is already ‘very poor’ in Delhi.
The condition of India’s overall air quality is worrisome. Many of our cities top the WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database, a survey on air pollution by the World Health Organisation. Thus, in lieu of all this, can’t we stop burning crackers for the sake of our own health?
Taking cognisance of the issue of air quality in Delhi, the Supreme Court had, in Arjun Gopal & Others Vs Union of India & Others dated October 23, 2018, directed that “crackers with reduced emission (improved crackers) and green crackers only would be permitted to be manufactured and sold. Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) is directed to review the clinical composition of fireworks.”
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) explained that green crackers are firecrackers that have “less dangerous” and “less harmful” chemicals than conventional ones and that it reduced emissions by 30%. Does this not mean that 70% of emissions would still remain?
These crackers have been named safe water releaser (SWAS), safe minimal aluminum (SAFAL) and safe thermite cracker (STAR). The key element in these firecrackers is the reduction in barium nitrate. Thus, barium nitrate would be used, but a reduced quantity. Therefore, can we really say that “green crackers” are totally and fully safe for the environment?
I have an interesting example to counter the ‘science’ behind supposedly less-harmful crackers. E-cigarettes were introduced as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes. But the WHO found the risk present in e-cigarettes, that is, increased susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases and more. Moreover, the intended purpose behind launching e-cigarettes was to reduce the habit but it was found that the consumption of the same has been increasing indiscriminately in the USA. Thus, after understanding its effects, Indian lawmakers decided to ban the same in India.
This example can be used to understand the use of ‘green crackers’ as an environment-friendly alternative. The intention behind the launch would be to save the environment but it could, in turn, lead to the worsening of the atmosphere and air quality. The reasons being, firstly, it is not fully safe, and secondly, people know and have the means to burn any type of cracker.
Not everyone might be informed enough to buy green crackers from the market, and it is very probable that ‘normal’ crackers will be available easily enough in markets. The intent behind the idea is good but it might not necessarily help in changing the behaviour and the mindset of people towards burning crackers and its link with the environment.
Also, crackers are banned only in Delhi with only the allowance of green crackers. Many states have not banned crackers. Even if banned, the rule is either not known or not being followed by people due to communication gaps and lack of any monitoring mechanism. There is a general rule that sets a time limit for the bursting of firecrackers but the rule is rarely ever followed. People don’t really know about the ‘time limit’ rule or they don’t want to follow it. Even a week before the actual day of Diwali I heard the sound of crackers in my colony.
Therefore, merely a ban in one state would not really be effective to tackle pollution, be it air or noise. I feel sad when I think about those animals like cows, dogs, or small children and elderly citizens, who are affected badly because of the noise. Thus, I believe that crackers, whether green or normal, should not be burned.
Banning is not the only way to stop the burning of crackers, instead, awareness and incentives are necessary for people to change their habits. I strongly feel that burning crackers is equal to burning money. It also has the potential to worsen the already deteriorating environment, and impact our health.
It is always good to celebrate auspicious occasions and festivals as-and-when they come, but we really need to consider the cause-and-effect of the same, and must reduce elements that cause any harm to our environment by thinking of the long-run.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program.