Context

  • The Supreme Court pointed out a lack of clarity on the pollutive impact of explosive substances used in firecrackers and ordered officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Firework Research and Development Centre at Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu to be present in court.

Concerns

  • The concerns are reiterated with respect to air pollution created by festivals like Dussehra and Diwali.
  • A body is required to regulate these industries.
  • Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) is setting some standard.
  • Firecrackers industries have to adhere to it,” a Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur observed.

The court queries

  • The court wants to know from such bodies, the impact of firecrackers on the environment, the extent of change in the air quality and the safety standards in place.
  • There appears to be a lack of clarity on environmental impact of pollution from firecrackers, the court reflected.
  • The Court blamed the CPCB, observing that it cannot shift its burden of protecting the environment and framing holistic air pollution standards, covering firecrackers also.
  • Additional Solicitor General P.S. Patwalia reasoned that firecracker industries function are under intense watch and strict regulations are in place.
  • Continuous monitoring and random checks of firecrackers is done by PESO.
  • But firecrackers manufacturers from Sivakasi countered that PESO should inform them prior to these checks.
  • The CPCB had earlier filed a report indicating that most firecrackers contain a large amount of sulphur, a major cause of air pollution.

Impact of fireworks on the environment and human health

Accidents – Accidents can occur if fireworks are handled incorrectly during sale and use:

  • Safety regulations for the saleof fireworks in Switzerland are contained in the Ordinance on Explosives.
  • Fire accidents, Burn Injuries, Eye and Ear Injuries.
  • Minors are disproportionately represented among the injured. This group is thus exposed to a higher risk.

Noise Pollution

  • Heavy impact on Animals and Birds. Impact on Elder citizens, heart patients. Mental distress and many more.
  • The noise emitted by the firecrackers reach, on a usual, 150 decibels, which is 20 decibels over the limit permitted by the World Health Organization.
  • 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.

Air Pollution

  • Serious problems for people with respiratory disorders. Affects animals, birds and plants.
  • In the combustion of fireworks, the main component gunpowder gives rise to the solid reaction products such as potassium carbonate, potassium Sulphate and potassium Sulphide, together with unreacted Sulphur.
  • The reaction products from effects mixtures are generally solids and consist of metal oxides and, less often, chlorides.
  • Fine particulates are notable in reaching record short-term pollution levels. International surveys – in more polluted areas – show that susceptible people may be measurably affected.
  • Dioxins can be released during the combustion of copper containing fireworks.
  • Laboratory experiments, which investigated the extent of dioxin formation caused by setting off various pyrotechnic devices, indicate that bonfires are a far more significant source of dioxin than pyrotechnic devices, especially when waste wood and other wastes are burned.

Environment

  • Use of paper for shells of firecrackers results into Loss of trees.
  • The firework reaction products that are emitted are deposited and thus enter the soil, crops and, in the case of fireworks over water, standing waters.
  • This pollution has not been measured yet. Therefore, the deposition of firework-related elements must be estimated from model calculations.
  • Eco toxicological and toxicological benchmarks for all firework-related elements were taken from the literature.
  • The present assessment shows that firework-related depositions do not cause problematic soil and water contents, and the evaluations suggest that indirect effects are also not critical.

Manufacturing Hazards

  • Workers develop serious respiratory diseases. Child labour menace.
    and many more such issues.
  • 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.

Effect on mental health –

  • 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.

Improper disposal –

  • 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 minute 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.

Increasing toxic rate

  • what goes up has to come down. Fireworks that fall to the ground contain residues of unburnt propellants and colourants, while particle pollution in the air eventually deposits on the ground or gets washed out by rain.
  • Some of this finds its way into water bodies like lakes and ponds, where percolate has been linked to thyroid problems, causing limits to be set for drinking water.
  • Researchers have collected airborne particles from Diwali. These were found to deplete lung defences far more than pollution from traffic sources, suggesting a greater toxicity.
  • Across India, Diwali fireworks have been linked to a 30% to 40% increase in recorded breathing problems.
  • The proportion of pollution from fireworks will only increase, as huge investments are made to reduce other sources of urban pollution.
  • Particle filters are present on nearly all modern diesel vehicles and factory emissions across the developed world are continually being tightened – but firework pollution remains unchecked.

History

  • The Indian Explosives Rules were enacted whereby a system of licensing was introduced for manufacture, possession and sale of fireworks in the year 1940.
  • Post the first organized factory in the year 1940, the number rose to three in 1942, and by the year 1980 the number of factories was 189.
  • By 2001-end, the total number of factories was 450 in Sivakasi alone and today it has touched 640.

Banning fireworks: infringing on religious rights

  • According to Hindu belief, the sound of fireworks and crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth and making gods aware of their plentiful state.
  • Therefore, a ban on fireworks and crackers would be against Hindu belief and mythology.
  • The festival of Diwali is celebrated for five days in India and each day holds its own importance.
  • The first day of Diwali festivities is known as Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi, which is celebrated on the 13th day of the month of Ashwin.
  • As per the legend, it is believed that on this day, Dhanvantari – the physician of the gods came out of the ocean with a pot of amrit, while it was being churned by the gods and the demons.
  • This is believed to be a momentous day for the mankind. It is also believed that Goddess Lakshmi also originated from the ocean on this day. Hence, the day is considered very auspicious for financial investments.
  • For people to let go of their belief, culture, festival is not an easy thing. They connect their origin through such beliefs, and firecrackers are somewhere close to it.

Way ahead

  • The best way to tackle the pollution caused by fireworks is not to have them at all.
  • Positioning crowds upwind of fireworks displays is another obvious way of reducing their negative health impacts.
  • According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a non-profit organization, awareness should be created for the masses.
  • People need to understand that bursting firecrackers is not trendy anymore.
  • It is important for the government to organize anti-firecracker campaigns and discourage people from bursting firecrackers.
  • Parents as well as children should be educated on the harmful effects of firecrackers and environmental laws should be implemented strictly.
  • The Central Pollution Board of India has banned firecrackers with a decibel level of more than 125 at a distance of 4 meters from the bursting point.

 

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