Post-Diwali pollution spike underlines the need for a hard line on crackers

Delhi government imposed a ban on excessively polluting Chinese crackers recently. Several raids were conducted to check compliance, but Chinese crackers were on sale in huge numbers.

Written by Kanishka Singh | New Delhi | Updated: November 1, 2016 11:41 am
diwali, pollution, diwali pollution, delhi pollution, air pollution, delhi air pollution, diwali delhi pollution, Diwali celebrations, delhi diwali, delhi news, india news, indian express New Delhi: A dog strays at Rajpath as smog covers the Raisina Hill in the background in New Delhi on Monday morning, a day after Diwali. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh(PTI10_31_2016_000179A)

The air pollution levels in the capital after Diwali rose to alarming levels with some places witnessing a rise in PM levels of 42 times higher than the safe limit. This was the story across much of India where Diwali celebrations mostly meant creating a cloud of smog containing harmful particulate matter and toxic gases with the potential of causing a host of medical issues.

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Delhi government imposed a ban on excessively polluting Chinese crackers recently. Several raids were conducted to check compliance, but Chinese crackers were on sale in huge numbers. The morning following Diwali showed a glimpse of the damage done over the course of a few hours.

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The Delhi government, for instance, said it had formed task forces to monitor people who were using cheap Chinese crackers that cause a lot of pollution and are also deemed unsafe due to the heavy presence of Potassium Chlorate in the explosive mixture. However, the Diwali celebrations quickly turned into a sort of collective fumigation for citizens.

Banning crackers itself will hurt businesses and livelihoods of thousands of manufacturers and sellers across the country. However, there has to be a ban on the import of material that is particularly unsafe and can easily be replaced. Secondly, there should be regulations in place on the explosives, so as to reduce noise and air pollution as much as possible.

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Several activists demand blanket bans on crackers every year. The issue itself has been taken up by several administrations who urge people not to burn crackers, a sort of voluntary ban. Activists have taken the matter to the Supreme Court as well, but have failed to get a favourable ruling. Some activists had demanded that there must be a ban on arbitrary burning of crackers and there should be a designated place and time for burning crackers on Diwali. The court ruled against the same, saying a ban will “hurt religious sentiments and hurt celebrations”.

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The governments have passed legislations over the same in the past as well but Chinese crackers find their way into the markets and into the hands of citizens easily. The problem must be addressed at the root level where imports of such crackers need to be banned. Also, apart from using certain charge-grade materials, there is no regulations for the kind of chemicals used in the crackers to make the explosives.

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Cheap combinations in such crackers violate sound barriers as well. The 80 db barrier is easily crossed at least a thousand times on any Diwali at a residential location. Every citizen would know that there isn’t a second on a Diwali night where one doesn’t hear the sound of a bursting cracker. Burning of crackers is supposed to stop at 10 pm, but it usually goes on till early hours of the morning. The prime issue is that the authorities seem uneasy over taking a hard line on handling a matter which is argued as just citing religious sentiments and supposed ritualistic celebrations. It is also tougher to handle as the people are not willing to draw some line to their use of crackers if not stopping completely.

Developed countries like the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Korea, Japan and more have strict laws where crackers can’t be burned in residential areas and have to be burnt in controlled environments away from homes or any place where the security of any individual or animal or property may not come to be compromised. Open burning of any material requires permission from authorities and violations draw a heavy fine–a regulation present in India, also hardly followed.

There is no law that regulates permissions or restrictions on the amount of crackers one can burn or the kind or manner of burning crackers. In India, it seems that the rituals and celebrations have taken such prime role that the health and safety of people has taken the backseat. There is a need for a strict legislation to mandate burning of crackers, if the judiciary is unwilling to impose a blanket ban.