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Anti-noise activists say that people burst dangerous firecrackers violating anti-pollution laws during Diwali; it’s high time people understand the hazards and celebrate the festival with lights, not noise
Vilas Chaturvedi (name changed) has been operating a small stationery shop for more than two decades on the busy street of a suburban area in Mumbai. Apart from the continuous honking of vehicles, these days, the firecrackers are adding to his irritation. So much so that he has decided to stay at home to escape the loud noise.
Many, like Mr Chaturvedi, feel irritated and tired during Diwali. This is because of the firecrackers that are lit and which explode with a loud bang, emitting toxic chemicals, and of course, deafening noise, all of which pollute the air. Anti-noise activists say that despite strict laws and other campaigns to reduce noise pollution, people need to take action on their own for the harm they are causing themselves and to the environment by lighting such dangerous—and extremely irritating—firecrackers.
Sumaira Abdulali, convener of the Awaaz Foundation, which is campaigning against noise pollution, told Moneylife, “This is not the traditional way of celebrating Diwali. Until recently, such firecrackers were not sold. People should understand the harm they are causing themselves and to the environment. By exploding these firecrackers, they are putting their children at risk as these firecrackers emit toxic chemicals. Many of the chemical components used in these firecrackers fall under the category of hazardous and poisonous items.”
Sudhir Badami, a Mumbai-based activist, said that people continue to ignite
firecrackers after 10PM in open spaces like Marine Drive, violating laws. At the same time, these firecrackers also poison the environment. “The anti-noise pollution law clearly mentions that firecrackers producing noise cannot be burst in silence zones at any time of the day or night, and they cannot be burst from 10PM-6AM in other places. There is a restriction on the emission of noise from these firecrackers—it should not exceed 123dB (decibels) for instant ignition. Such firecrackers emit chemicals which are hazardous to health. There is an urgent need to control them.”
Interestingly, such firecrackers, using explosive ingredients beyond the permissible limit, are openly sold in the market amidst the blame-game going on between the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the Department of Explosives (DOE).
It is reported that both these agencies do not curb the sale and manufacture of firecrackers as each one is blaming the other for the responsibility of curbing sale of these hazardous firecrackers. This gives a free hand to hawkers for selling such firecrackers much above the permissible limit.
“This issue has always been there, year after year. The DOE complains that it has a staff crunch and officials have to take care of the markets across Maharashtra,” added Ms Abdulali.
Meanwhile, some manufacturers, understanding the issue of pollution due to firecrackers, are commercially selling ‘eco-friendly’ crackers. They claim that these eco-friendly crackers are made out of recycled firecrackers using a method of vacuum combustion and they emit less smoke & noise. And these manufacturers say that people are gradually beginning to accept these crackers.
So light a lamp (or several) this Diwali and have a blast—and do spare a thought or two for the neighbourhood and environment before you strike a matchstick to light a powerful firecracker.