Diwali 2018: where are the ‘Green Firecrackers’ that Supreme Court has mandated?

Supreme Court said only green firecrackers will be allowed, manufacturers say they don't have it, environmentalists say they are not tested yet

Responding to petitions seeking a ban on firecrackers in India, Supreme Court on 23rd October imposed several restrictions on firecrackers, refraining from a blanket ban. Apart from setting a window of only two hours, 8 pm to 10 pm, for fireworks during Diwali, the apex court also said that only Green Crackers will be allowed in the country. Green crackers are low pollution firecrackers that scientists have developed in recent years. Diwali this year is just two weeks away, and the question arises, are there enough such firecrackers available in the country, or rather are there such firecrackers available in India at all.

Last year union environment minister Harsh Vardhan had requested scientists to develop less polluting firecrackers, soon after that several CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) laboratories began working on creating such fireworks.

The altered chemical composition of these “green firecrackers” result in 40% lesser toxic emissions; created in such a way that they emit water vapour and air after exploding, which suppress dust as well as dilute the toxic gases that are traditionally emitted at first. They also include safe minimal aluminium and safe thermite crackers. Moreover, they look the same and sound exactly like the traditional fireworks, especially the flowerpots and bijli, and may be less expensive.

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However, according to reports, there is much scepticism regarding these green firecrackers among ecologists. Environmentalists claim they have not received any permissions to test them out, with Diwali being merely two weeks away, it seems unlikely to experiment with these eco-friendly crackers will be possible in such little time.

Environmental activist from PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) Vikrant Tongad said, “Even if a stockpiling of these new crackers are done, it is impossible to test their standards now. It is too late for this Diwali.”

Indian manufacturers also claim that there no such thing as green firecracker in the market yet, and point that their products already meet the specifications of PESO. They say that they have already completed production for this year, and they can’t produce green firecrackers. Traders also say that even if such products are available, they would not able to procure it in just 15 days. Many of them also have old stock, which they can’t sell now.

Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner from Greenpeace India mentioned, “The lack of seriousness shown to public health crisis is appalling. Both central and state governments have been indifferent to it since many years now. Yet, efforts are being made by us to make at least a fraction of newly tested green crackers available.”

“There’s nothing called green crackers. Only some of the harmful chemicals used in crackers earlier, will not be used anymore,” said Vijay Panjwani, advocate for the Central Pollution Control board. It was one of the suggestions made as part of the government’s affidavit for the proposal of ‘green crackers’, the Supreme Court only accepted parts of the affidavit.

Given this backdrop, there is a big question mark over this year’s Diwali. For all practical purposes, there is actually a blanket ban on firecrackers, as the apex court has ordered something which is not available at present, and which can’t be produced for the entire country in such a short period of time.

If the court order is fully implemented, there will be no fireworks this year. And if traders and people chose to defy the court order and use existing available firecrackers, that would be disrespect of Supreme Court of India.

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