A time for celebration and cheer, Diwali, rightly called the ‘Festival Of Lights’, is a cherished Indian festival. Families and friends come together to celebrate this delightful occasion, exchanging presents and sweets and lighting their houses with lamps, diyas and colourful lights. A sense of warm camaraderie makes Diwali a beautiful festival to celebrate.
In the midst of this happiness, a glaring problem faces the environment because of several pollution causing factors during the festival. Bursting firecrackers has long since been a tradition in Indian households during Diwali, a tradition that has consistently caused more harm than good. There’s a huge amount of air pollution, noise pollution and the accumulation of waste during Diwali which is a major concern.
The menace of fireworks
Loud firecrackers are burst throughout the day during Diwali in different parts of the country. Despite government bans over the years that have attempted to restrict the use of crackers, there has been no significant change. While people are aware of the detrimental impacts of firecrackers, they continue to purchase them.
The chemicals in firecrackers are extremely harmful and cause bodily damage. Aside from the fire hazard, people coming in contact with the chemicals in firecrackers are at severe risk. The smoke from fireworks consists mainly of fine toxic dust (particulate matter) that can easily enter the lungs. This smoke contains a mixture of sulfur-coal compounds, traces of heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals or gases.
Inhaling these gases can cause wheezing and shortness of breath. Lead, Magnesium and Nitrate are also released every time you burn crackers leading to severe health problems. Cities like Delhi have nearly unbreathable air and the bursting of firecrackers during Diwali makes living conditions unbearable.
Noise pollution and the accumulation of waste
The noise pollution harms not just people but helpless animals as well. Stray dogs on the road have nowhere to hide when loud firecrackers are burst around them. Sometimes, people on the road mindlessly attach firecrackers to the tails of dogs that harm them severely. Firecrackers are the cause for anxiety attacks among humans, birds and animals. Noise pollution is known to cause hypertension, high-stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances.
Another damaging aspect of using firecrackers is the huge amount of waste it leaves behind on roads. Piles of trash are found on several roads during Diwali solely because of firecrackers. At a time when the climate crisis is more serious than ever, mindlessly purchasing firecrackers is nothing short of a crime.
One of the most disturbing realities of the fireworks industry is that it relies on child labour for production. Thousands of children are employed in toxic factories, in contact with chemicals that can damage them forever. Yet, there seems to be no affirmative action to help these children out of their dire conditions.
Are government measures sufficient?
The government comes with a new scheme every year to deal with firecrackers and the pollution they cause. However, there seems to be a major gap between announcing a measure and actually implementing it. This year, the Tamil Nadu government has specified that firecrackers can be burst at a stipulated hour, once in the morning and once in the evening. It is left to be seen if this will actually deter people from bursting crackers.
Additionally, the Union Minister Harsh Vardhan has announced the release of ‘eco-friendly’ firecrackers just in time for Diwali this year. These ‘green’ crackers give out 30% less emissions than normal crackers. They are also going to be sold at the same price as regular crackers.
What can we do?
State governments and the central government enforce many of these schemes on a yearly basis during Diwali but very rarely do they make an impact. It is left to the people of the country to understand the lasting implications of their actions. Parents should warn children about the negative effects of firecrackers and discourage them from bursting them.
We have to understand that our environment is steadily deteriorating and the only way we can stop that is by changing our actions and being eco-friendly. More awareness needs to be raised so people understand that they need to stop mistreating the environment. The government should focus on year-long campaigns that promote sustainable practices and encourage people to be more conscious of conserving the environment.