By Salil Gewali
The festival of light – Diwali – representing the symbolic good over evil, light over darkness, and victory of righteousness and knowledge over ignorance is approaching. Well, the colorful displays of fireworks are popular traditions during major celebrations, not only in India but also in advanced countries. Despite its popularity, the air and noise pollution emitted by fireworks contribute to the degradation of our precious environment. Also, the harmful effects of chemicals and metallic particles used in firecrackers adversely impact human lives.
Although fireworks are a part of celebrations of almost all countries in the world, their use is limited to occasions. But, in India, particularly during Diwali, we celebrate this popular “festival of lights” predominantly by bursting fireworks. We set off rocket bombs thinking they vanish into thin air but Newton’s law gravitation brings them all back in the form of smoke and toxic ashes.
India is one of the most polluted countries in the World. Our extended periods of use of fireworks cause irreparable damage to our whole animal kingdom. In the name of Diwali, our children, with all merriment, play with various types of fancy firecrackers almost two weeks in advance causing deadly pollution, both sound, and air. For newly born babies, each burst of firework is a “nightmare”. They can’t even cry against the frightful noise. This is nothing but our uncaring cruelty towards them.
Fire hazards are common occurrences. Needlessly to say, smoke from fireworks containing metallic particles causes severe health risks. Is it the “price” one has to pay for this mockery of enjoyment by bursting crackers? Are we aware that the different colours and light effects produced in the firework displays are achieved only by mixing “poisonous” metal powders to gunpowder? Cases of burn injuries are very common during fireworks displays among our children, as they do not keep safety tips in mind while playing with deadly firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers.
The rotten egg smell that one gets during fireworks emanates from burnt “sulphur” which is the main ingredient of many fireworks. The fireworks that explode producing purple colour basically contain some amount of explosives and potassium compounds that cause extensive pollution in a very short period of time. Barbarous fireworks leave metal particles, harmful chemicals, smoke, and toxins in the air. These dangerous toxins do not disintegrate or break up for several days. They remain in the environment, poisoning the surroundings. People vulnerable to lung and respiratory illnesses are at a high risk of complication. Children fall sick with fever, skin irritation, vomiting, etc. The noise pollution is more dangerous than air pollution. Noise limits beyond 120db on all consumer fireworks are illegal in many countries, but in our country, since there is no voice of protest from any quarters, the products sold here are far above the permitted decibel.
Is it not a sheer stupidity that dangerous bangers, air bombs, and jumping jacks are indiscriminately produced and set off senselessly, thereby turning the festival of lights into the festival of disaster? Is it the way we welcome our Goddess Lakshmi and seek Her blessings?
Yes, with a bang, the firecracker industries have been put on notice by the Supreme Court through a verdict on the 23rd of October, 2018 restricting them from manufacturing harmful fireworks. We all should welcome it. Further, the judgment on the “reduced time” of two hours between 8.p.m. and 10 p.m. for bursting crackers during festivals like Diwali and 11.55 p.m. and half past midnight during Christmas and New Year is doubtlessly a very positive move. But when will Supreme Court announce the strict regulation to restrict the plying of motor vehicles on ever-increasing roads and factories and industries which are only “blackening the very face of Mother Earth”. Since the environment has been intensely battered by the toxic heat from our senseless “consumerism”, now is the time that a “clause” should be incorporated within our “CONSTITUTION” that Government, each and every citizen and the business houses should ensure the sincere participation in cleansing the environment. We have to change our lifestyles. We have to reform our culture and tradition for the sake of saving the beautiful creation of God. HE will be very happy and bless us with more bountiful and nourishing vegetation. So, let’s pledge to restore our pale and sickly environment to its vibrant greenery. We can’t throw the caution to the wind and our “activities” ending up in smoke any longer!
Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.