This article titled ‘Celebrations need not be the Parade of Pollution- A case for banning Firecrackers.’ is written by Shubhangi Singh and sheds light on the ill effects of using firecrackers while discussing themes such as the right to life, growing pollution etc.
Celebrations need not be the Parade of Pollution- A case for banning Firecrackers
The beauty of the firework in the night sky might be the reason that people still use them to celebrate even after knowing the harmful effects they have on life and the environment. It is disappointing that India is one of the largest producers of fireworks, which depicts India’s contribution to global pollution. Though firecrackers are not the sole reason for the deteriorating environment, their contribution has to be acknowledged.
It’s unfortunate that we use them even when they do no good, and can easily be avoided. In times when India and other nations are struggling to meet the requisite air quality standards, it becomes crucial for the public to follow those activities which would reduce the emissions of harmful gases in the environment. The general public suffers no harm if firecrackers are banned. The public will only be benefited in terms of good air quality. Therefore, banning firecrackers is a good idea.
The existence of fireworks can be traced to the invention of “gunpowder” in China. Arabs introduced Indians and Europeans with the gunpowder technology that they brought from China. The usage of firecrackers for celebrations started during the Mughal Reign. Only the rich and affluent people had the access to fireworks and they used to organise firework displays during festivals and weddings. In the 18th century, Marathas used fireworks for the first time to celebrate Diwali and only after Independence, the general public got access to firecrackers. Today, people use firecrackers to celebrate their happiness. But, the health general public should not be compromised for such type of celebration.
III. Are green firecrackers a good substitute for conventional firecrackers?
Green firecrackers are being developed under the supervision of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). They are being propounded by the government as environment-friendly firecrackers which would emit pollutants at a 30% lesser rate than the conventional firecrackers. They are made up of less polluting material and their chemical formulation reduces particle emission in the environment. They would also contain some heavy metals like barium, carbon, aluminium, but in lesser amounts. The CSIR will also use QR codes on these firecrackers to protect consumers from counterfeit products.
In my opinion, green firecrackers are not a good substitute for conventional firecrackers, since these explosives also use harmful and heavy metals like aluminium, carbon which can prove disastrous for the health of the general public. Green Firecrackers promise a reduction in emission of pollutants only by 30%. This percentage cannot allow widespread and unrestricted usage of green firecrackers, across India.
The usage of green firecrackers should be regulated by the competent government authorities so that they do not harm the health and environment, that too in the times when we are painstakingly trying to achieve sustainable development goals. The competent authorities should formulate rules to regulate the type of material that should be used in green firecrackers. Plus, they should formulate a time period within which they can be used.
The quality of green firecrackers should also be ensured, as many accidents are reported because of their malfunction. Hefty Penalties should be imposed on violators to create deterrence. The authorities should also ensure that Labour Laws are being complied with by the manufacturers, as the situations under which labourers work are pathetic. Hundreds of labourers lose their lives in factory accidents.
IV. Should firecrackers be banned?
Indian Legal System does not prohibit usage and manufacturing of firecrackers, but Explosive Act, 1884 and Explosive Rules 2008 and 2019 do regulate the manufacturing, licensing and handling of fireworks.
In recent times, several petitions were filed in the Apex Court under Right to Life for imposing bans on Firecrackers.
Several Government organisations like NGT and CPCB have also recognised the harmful effects of firecracker bursting on the environment and the health of the general public. They have also imposed several rules and regulations on purchasers, sellers and manufactures to protect the environment and other fellow human beings. In my view, firecrackers should be completely banned because of the following reasons –
- India has 37 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities in the world. India’s standards for PM2.5 and PM10 are 60 and 100 µg/m3 respectively (over 24 hours), while the WHO’s new standards are 15 and 45 µg/m3 (over 24 hours). Around 1.67 million people died in India in 2019 because of Air Pollution. The pollution levels in India touch new heights every year because of its dependence on fossil fuels. Unless people can afford clean energy, the pollution levels won’t reduce. But, by prohibiting the use of firecrackers, we can stop India from making new records in Air Pollution.
- Though the government is propounding green firecrackers because of their environment-friendly nature, we cannot ignore that it reduces emission only by 30%. We need to acknowledge that heavy metals like barium and aluminium will be still used in their manufacturing. Side-effects of heavy metals and the capability of green crackers to contribute in the existing air pollution of the country has to be acknowledged.
- Most importantly, gases emitted form firecrackers are hazardous for humans and other animals. It creates respiratory diseases at early age, cause pre-mature births, increases the cases of cancer etc. Basically, fumes and gases emitted from firecrackers takes away the Right to Life of an individual, which is enshrined in Indian Constitution. The consequences of their bursting has to be faced by whole human society.
- During Pandemic, we cannot take the risk of increasing Air Pollution through firecrackers as there exist a nexus between Covid and Air Pollution, as both affect lungs and immune system.
- India needs to go a long way in-order to achieve its air pollution targets. A small step can be taken by the Indians if they would refrain from purchasing and bursting Firecrackers.
V. Stand of Supreme Court on bursting of firecrackers
- In 2017, SC banned the sale and bursting of toxic firecrackers when two infants, through their parents filed a petition in SC under Right to Life. The Court allowed the usage of green firecrackers through licensed sellers. It dismissed the argument of respondents related to the Right to practice religion.
- In 2018, the apex court passed a judgement to ban the usage of fire-crackers in Delhi NCR and regulate their usage in other parts of the country. Barium or Barium salt-based firecrackers were especially prohibited as when burned they emit poisonous fumes that give birth to various respiratory problems.
- In Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, 2018, SC preferred a balanced approach in dealing with Air Pollution and Firecrackers. It did not rule a complete ban but favoured green firecrackers. It also imposed several conditions on the sale, raw materials, permissible limits on their emissions. But, it banned the online sale of firecrackers and directed that they can only be sold by licensed sellers.
- Recently, SC dismissed the petitions against the order of NGT related to a complete ban on the sale and bursting of crackers during the pandemic. But, SC said that firecrackers may be permitted according to the AQI categories.
- Recently, SC issued notice to six major producers of firecrackers for their violation of SC’s 2017 and 2018 orders in which it prohibited the use of certain materials like Barium, Antimony, Lithium, Mercury, Lead and Arsenic in their production. The notice was issued on the basis of the report that CBI submitted to Apex Court.
- A bench of Justice M.R.Shah and A.S. Bopanna decided to make police commissioners liable if the orders related to the sale and bursting of firecrackers are violated this year. They also held that the Right to Life is above the Right to employment, when manufacturers argued about the loss of employment of people due to the orders of Apex Court.
The bursting of firecrackers do no good to the environment and also deteriorate human health. As responsible citizens, it becomes our duty not to worsen the existing environmental problems. Humans have already caused inconceivable damage to the ecosystem. If we cannot reverse this damage, then we should try not to cause further chaos.
It is high time for us to adopt the sustainable approach. Unless we are able to strike a balance between ecosystem and development, we should avoid all those activities that would further deepen the existing problems. So, unless we improve the environmental problems we should not think of bursting firecrackers (that too when avoiding their usage cause no harm to us), and this can only be done by imposing bans on the manufacture of conventional firecrackers.
 Global Burden of Disease, 2019
 A bench of Justices M R Shah and A S Bopanna said that these orders won’t be complied if someone is not made liable for their violations. In 2020, Calcutta HC passed a similar order in which it made DM responsible for any violation related to the usage of polluting firecrackers.
 Hindustan Times
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