Ban on Crackers is a hot topic for discussion every year during the festival of lights. While firecrackers are not the only factor, last year the Delhi saw alarming levels of air pollution towards the end of the year. In order to curb pollution, the Supreme Court had suspended all licenses that permitted sale, wholesale and retail of firecrackers in the Delhi on November 11. However, on September 12 this year the ban was relaxed.
It must be mentioned here that citizens of Delhi have been suffering the impact of dangerously high pollution levels every year post-Diwali up till spring season. During Diwali night last year, the city’s air pollution levels were 14-16 times beyond the safe limits. Seeing that the condition was not getting better, some schools even suspended classes, visibility was down to 200 mt, environmentalists called it an emergency and the government received criticism for not being able to help the situation.
The court’s decision is well-intentioned but hardly implementable. Given the popularity of bursting firecrackers on Diwali, people will find ways to obtain them. True, air pollution levels had dangerously spiked after Diwali last year and The Supreme Court had imposed a ban on sale of firecrackers last November the court has taken down that order now.
Firecrackers, merely for the sake of entertainment, emit nitrogen dioxide, Sulphur dioxide and particulate matter which are so minute that they have theability to get lodged in the lung and can even enter the bloodstream. Patients of asthma and other respiratory disorders report discomfort and worsening of conditions during Diwali.
High amount of noise pollution created by firecrackers can cause temporary and sometimes permanent hearing impairment. Other problems that people of old age face on Diwali nights are sleeping disorders, restlessness, rise in blood pressure, and even heart attacks.
Lives are lost and some are maimed for the rest of their life. Playing with fire, the most hazardous element of nature cannot be fun for everyone especially when every nook and corner of the country joins to emit Sulphur and Nitrite together the whole night.
The day next to Diwali witnesses burnt garbage which is usually toxic elements such as magnesium and phosphorus.
Crores are spent every year in these burnt fire crackers which ultimately go towards contaminating the natural resources and sometimes properties and lives are lost too due to accidents from these firecrackers.
Though, the burning of firecrackers has been in the Hindu tradition for years and suddenly implementing a ban on it might hurt their religious sentiments. Fireworks have been an inherent part of the Diwali celebrations and not just Hindus, but people of other religion equally partake in this festival.
Instead of banning the fireworks, there could be reformatory measures to lessen the amount of these firecrackers that could be burnt in a single day. Some areas near hospitals and old age homes should have firecracker prohibition rules which should be strictly implemented.
Whatever measures are taken every year to lessen noise and air pollution ultimately get hazed in the heavy smoke of these crackers and unless a complete ban is imposed on them, nothing could be done to make Diwali actually “eco-friendly.”
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It is common folly that when taking on something calamitous, people pick on relatively small offenders. Asking for an end to bursting crackers during Diwali could be one of those superfluities.
These days it is no longer enough to talk of the “polluted weather”. We are now becoming accustomed to the “polluted climate”, which is all-pervasive. Pollution is now global and is present all year round. Given this preponderant reality, how far is it logical to just select Diwali and tell people, including the children, whom it would hurt the most, that since Diwali is environmentally degrading, we should not celebrate it at all, or at least not with crackers? No doubt it is polluting, but how long does the pollution last? Two days, maybe. Does anyone remember its “evil impact” after that? All the talk of pollution then meanders into things that actually go into the making of this foul climate. What Diwali does is at best a minor add-on to pollution.
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I, for one, have been hearing of pollution from the 1970s. But nowhere was Diwali seen as a culprit. This was a festival that was the last before the annual examinations came in November. We remember buying crackers at least three days before they were burst. In Calcutta, where I spent my early days, Kali Puja, which comes a day before Diwali, is the festival celebrated. And so is Diwali. So for the people of that city, Diwali is a two-day or, if you include bhai-duj, a three-day festival. And the thread that ran through all the three was the pleasing, crackling sound of fireworks. Nowadays children have less and less space to play and enjoy. So why take away from them the day they love? Moreover, asking for a stop to bursting crackers is to stop being part of a living history that goes back 150 years at least. Many accounts of old cities are full of soul-lifting discussions how Diwali or Kali Puja tugged at the heart-strings of people.
Read: As Delhi chokes yet again on Diwali, who is to blame for its toxic air?
Academic studies, including the ones from IITs, have proved beyond doubt that in urban areas the commonest sources of pollution are vehicles and construction. And they seem intractable problems. The courts have tried to give some palliative measures, and so have the governments. But the efforts, given the enormity of the problem, have been mostly ineffectual. And worse, people have not been very cooperative when the matter called for a bit of sacrifice on everybody’s part. Some would say in this people’s livelihoods might be affected. Well, then why should Diwali alone be blamed?
Next comes the big thing about politics that no democracy can do without. And it is turning a blind eye to a phenomenon, which has now been made illegal, or not so legal, by executive decree. How long this has been going on for I cannot tell but for the past several years the burning of the paddy straw and ground stubble in Punjab and Haryana after the harvest is held up as a factor in pollution in Delhi. And with the elections in Punjab due next years, and with the farmers being a powerful lobby, elections or no elections, who would dare implement the government order of taking punitive action against the burning of stubble?
Polluting factories along the river Ganga taint not just the environment but the river too. As is well known, the Ganga Action Plan, started in 1986, was not very successful and was withdrawn in 2000. A parliamentary committee report two years ago said in all Rs 2.2 lakh crore had been expended over 32 years on cleaning up the river, which takes in more than 2,000 million litres of waste a day, discharged by factories. What has been the movement on this? Precious little.
Against these giants, the harm done by Diwali is not even a drop in the ocean. Why not let it stay in the interests of our children?