Pretty Polluting: Crackers aren’t worth the health damage they cause, but banning seems a difficult solution to implement

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November 16, 2020 6:30 AM

While, on paper, a total cracker ban should help, the fact is, in India, the crackers industry employs nearly 10 lakh people and accounts for Rs 5,000 crore of manufacturing output. Investors, workers will need to be rehabilitated before such a step is taken.

From colourants to propellants, the heavy doses of chemicals cause untold damage in exchange for a few hours of fun; green crackers may be less polluting, but they are polluting nonetheless.From colourants to propellants, the heavy doses of chemicals cause untold damage in exchange for a few hours of fun; green crackers may be less polluting, but they are polluting nonetheless.

Air quality in the national capital worsening sharply the day after Diwali—the National Green Tribunal’s ban on crackers was conspicuously violated—is evidence of the environmental harm of firecrackers. Similar harm has been recorded elsewhere; the authorities in UK have reported a marked deterioration of the air quality and a sharp spike in particulate matter pollution around the Guy Fawkes night (November 5), observed to mark thefoiling of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

Fourth of July fireworks in the US, Girona’s (Spain) Sant Joan celebrations, even crackers lit during soccer celebrations in Germany—all these periodic use of fireworks have been linked to sudden surges in particulate pollution tied to long-term health damage.

From colourants to propellants, the heavy doses of chemicals cause untold damage in exchange for a few hours of fun; green crackers may be less polluting, but they are polluting nonetheless. In 2010, researchers from King’s College, London, and University of Birmingham had found that pollutants from Diwali and Guy Fawkes night fire crackers depleted lung defences much more severely than vehicular pollutants. While, on paper, a total cracker ban should help, the fact is, in India, the crackers industry employs nearly 10 lakh people and accounts for Rs 5,000 crore of manufacturing output. Investors, workers will need to be rehabilitated before such a step is taken. Then, there is the headache of the communalisation of the cracker-ban. Till these are navigated successfully, crackers will continue to choke the masses.

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