Deepavali is just around the corner and authorities are gearing up to keep noise and air pollution levels at a minimum. Last year, the Supreme Court allowed the sale of 'green crackers', which use smaller amounts of pollutants like aluminium and potassium nitrate. Green crackers make up about 60 percent of total production this year, say vendors. The state Pollution Control Board will monitor air and noise pollution levels through the festival weekend, while BBMP will conduct raids to ensure that 'conventional' crackers are not being sold. Aksheev Thakur and Vishaka V. Warrier report.
With only one week to go before Deepavali is upon us, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has come up with a slew of measures to curb the use of fire crackers. While the member awareness committee of the board has been creating awareness in educational institutions and public places about the ramifications of burning crackers, the government still hasn’t issued a notification on the matter.
Manufacturing units have expressed displeasure over green crackers. The senior officials at the board said that the manufacturers have claimed they have machines to produce conventional crackers, but not their ‘green’ counterparts. “Manufacturers say they are using old equipment, used to make conventional crackers and have not yet upgraded them to manufacture eco-friendly ones. The discussion is on in the government but we will ensure that citizens are not inconvenienced,” says Basavaraj Patil, member secretary, KSPCB. Another major issue that crackers that exceed the decibel limit are being snuck in through Tamil Nadu.
“Raids will be conducted by the BBMP,” says Dr Lakshmikanth H.M., member of the KSPCB’s awareness committee. “Crackers can be burned between 6 pm and 10 pm and the board will monitor noise and air pollution levels on all three days,” he adds. These levels will also be monitored in the days preceding the festival and also after it, apart from the 24-hour vigil that will be kept on Deepavali. “The data of all the days will be released in public domain the following month,” Patil added. Last year in a landmark judgement in October, the apex court had permitted the sale and manufacture of low-emission green crackers.
Sales go up with new eco-friendly alternatives
Fireworks have become synonymous with Deepavali, the festival of lights and prosperity. However, bearing in mind issues like depleting air quality and the health hazards that occur in the aftermath of the widespread burning of crackers, there is a strong case in favour of ‘green crackers’.
S Harikrishna, Proprietor, Om Sai Crackers, says, “Conventional crackers constitute between 30 and 40 per cent of fire crackers, while the majority of dealers, who comprise about 60 % of the total production, engage in the purchase and sale of green crackers.” The conventional crackers still found in the market, he says, “are buffer stock from previous years.” By next year, however, he believes that “the fireworks market will be made up totally of green crackers.”
How green are green crackers, ask some vendors. These are fireworks that replace or considerably reduce pollution chemicals like aluminium, potassium nitrate, carbon, etc, to reduce emissions by between 15 and 30 percent. Therefore, firecracker vendors question them. “There is no such thing. They are not clearly defined, there are no clear guidelines on issues like shelf life and so on,” says Madhan Kumar, who is a firecracker dealer here int he city. With the introduction of green crackers, there has been a rise in demand by about three percent for crackers this year,” says another vendor, who didn’t wish to be named. He added that customers now ask specifically for green crackers, while shopkeepers promote them to those who do not.
Aside from sparklers and laaras (chain crackers), all varieties of flowerpots, chakras and sky shots are available in the green cracker category. The high-intensity-sound crackers are available with the conventional set. Since laaras have been banned for noise and air pollution reasons, Harikrishna appeals to his customers to avoid buying these and emphasised the need for informed and responsible purchases.
“Although the use of green crackers will help reduce smoke pollution levels, by reducing the concentration of chemicals,” communities have a vital role to play to reduce pollution even further by engaging in community celebrations,” says Akshay Heblikar, environmentalist and Director, Eco-Watch. Akshay also emphasises a dual approach to the issue. “One is to find alternatives that not only reduce emissions but also find alternatives that are eco-friendly. The other approach is to change our lifestyles to suit the growing demands of the environment and be sensitive towards animals, children and the elderly.”
To avoid the use of severely polluting crackers, government must ensure constant checks and investigations to monitor the manufacturing of fireworks. In addition to this, the buyers should demand for buying green crackers that can be identified with the logo....