TODAY -

Those Sparks and Sounds

Kamal Baruah *



India celebrates Diwali by lighting clay lamps outside homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. Even many parts of the world also follow us. White house hailed incredible contributions of the Indian-American community by celebrating Diwali every year. It is the time for Diyas, Candles, lights, sweets, family time and firecrackers. Diwali is known for fireworks, it is not complete without bursting crackers. And people want to have a blast on Diwali.

But the real issue is air pollution. Fireworks emit toxic fumes and can cause respiratory problems and even terrify pets and wildlife. Can we decide to noise free Diwali this time to refrain from fireworks? The significance of this festival in Northern India is the celebration of home-coming of Lord Ram after his victory over Ravana. South celebrates it as Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. In all interpretations, it marks the victory of good over evil.

But, the meaning has lost nowadays under the piles of fire-crackers. It creates excessive noise pollution and disturbs the balance in the atmosphere. The eco-friendly crackers will save the environment without dampening the festive mood. Arenít we informed about those sparks and sounds?

There is no blanket ban of sale of firecrackers. The Apex Court verdict says that only 'green firecrackers' (which are less polluting) will be allowed to be sold. Sikkim already put a ban on production, sale and bursting of all firecrackers since 2014. Delhi prohibit on selling and burning of old stock of conventional firecrackers.

The air quality in the capital during winter worsens to alarming levels, turning the city into a gas chamber. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had found presence of high levels of toxic elements like barium and aluminium in Delhiís air a day after Diwali last two years.

Why cannot we put a complete prohibition on sound and light illuminating firecrackers in other states? Supreme Court put a ban on selling and burning of old stock and also says for production of new crackers to fulfil the permissible conditions. The apex court had fixed the 8-10 pm slot for bursting crackers on Diwali.

Despite Ministry of commerce and custom directive Chinese fireworks smuggled through sea port. Chinese fireworks do not adhere to any noise standard. Although there is existing law against generating noise more than 125 decibel but strict implementation by civic authorities is a far cry.

Ganak Kuchií village of Barpeta district is the traditional firecracker from Assam. Eco-friendly crackers are made of recycled paper. They do not contain as much chemicals as conventional firecrackers. Thus emit less smoke and noise. Unlike the normal cracker, the eco-friendly crackers are based on vacuum combustion method.

These crackers produce colourful sparks with a considerable sound and less smoke. Despite the ban on conventional firecrackers by Apex court, people still prefer high-decibel crackers over eco-friendly crackers. The firecracker industry may have been victim to many tragic accidents.

The Indian firecracker industry is the second largest in the world after China. Surprisingly it does not export due to unsuitable storage and inadequate shipping facilities. Importing countries impose strict regulatory standards that India has been unable to meet.

But India has a great potential for foreign revenue. Sivakasi in Tamilnadu, is the hub of Indian fire cracker industry. It is a home to over 9,500 firecracker factories, produces almost the entire fireworks output of India. Two brothers Shanmuga Nadar and P Ayya Nadar found their way to work in a Kolkata based match factory Dasgupta in early 1990s later returned to Sivakasi to begin their own enterprise.

Fireworks have been categorised under restrictive items. The Director General of Foreign trade, the Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) has not granted licences to anyone to import firecrackers from any country. So buying China-made firecracker is illegal. With guidelines of Apex Court for environment-friendly crackers, now producers add less of chemicals like sulphur and potassium nitrate.

Potassium chlorate was discovered by French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet during the end of the 18th Century. The colour inducing chemical Potassium Chlorate is a banned explosive in India since 1992. The illegal trade began with China because Potassium Chlorate is much cheaper than its alternatives. It also probably sourced illegally from matchstick factories. It has very powerful oxidising ability and produced fuels the flame of the lit firework when it mixed with Sulphur. It is beautiful but extremely dangerous.

The technology for fireworks with low emission levels was developed by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The green crackers are sent to the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) for safety checks and granting licences to the manufacturers. But they will not be available for this Diwali.

NBRI in Lucknow is working on plant-based materials which could be used in fireworks. The Tamil Nadu Fore Crackers Association was involved an experiment on the modification of chemical combination, control the emission with colours, smoke, and height of lighting, brightness and ability to burst that become viral through WhatsApp recently. Hope we celebrate a safe and sound Diwali.


* Kamal Baruah wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a resident of Guwahati and can be contacted at kamal(DOT)baruah(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was posted 08 November, 2018 .


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