The Supreme Court has, thankfully, shot down a demand for a complete ban on firecrackers on Diwali. But the demand for the ‘ban’ itself defies logic.
Pro-ban activists propound the pollution logic.
1. Many Indian cities are already in the list of most polluted in the world.
A World Health Organization report on pollution around the world, focusing on airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (known as PM2.5) presents a dangerous picture for India. And this is an annual data.
2. Major causes of emissions in India are fossil fuels and vehicular emissions.
An International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) survey found that the number of vehicles on Indian roads has nearly trebled to 130 million in 2013, from 50 million in 2003. It has risen vehicle nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions by 10 percent. NOX is harmful to human health, ozone, and plants.
Another problem is fossil fuel. The WHO report highlighted that the highest concentration of PM2.5 was in north India, the region with the highest population concentration, vehicles, factories and consumers of biomass.
3. Indian firecrackers that pollute the environment and are dangerous are of Chinese origin.
The Chinese use potassium chlorate, a chemical banned in India, in their firecrackers. The chemical is highly dangerous – it explodes on friction.
This 2014 photo was taken after an explosion in a fireworks factory in China.
Indian firecracker manufacturers argue that since they use aluminium, barium and potassium nitrate in the locally-made crackers, it is less dangerous and polluting than the Chinese ones.
4. China is the world leader in firecracker production and it is 13 times that of India’s.
China’s fireworks industry generates an annual revenue of $12 billion (approx. Rs.78,594 crore). It is more than 10 times the size of the fireworks industry in the United States.
The business of fireworks is only increasing as this data from US reflects.
Though only one Chinese city (Nanjing) has banned firecrackers outright, the industry is itself transforming by moving to ‘green’ crackers.
5. The firecracker industry helps lakhs in India earn their livelihood.
Banning firecrackers will destroy an industry which feeds five lakh families.
Producing 80 per cent of all Indian manufactured firecrackers, the industry in Sivakasi is now facing a crisis. Of the 800 odd factories, 100 are up for sale.
6. Indian firecracker makers follow safety guidelines.
Packets of firecrackers manufactured in India list maximum retail price, emergency phone numbers and usage methods. The Chinese firecracker packets bear no such thing.
Manufacturers lament that illegal import of firecrackers is rampant in the country but legal export of Indian crackers is not allowed.
7. Illegal import of Chinese firecrackers is the real problem.
The Centre recently issued a statement saying that no clearance has been given to Chinese firecrackers. Yet despite attempts by both the Centre and states, such crackers are available in the markets.
The main reason behind the widespread use of Chinese firecrackers in India lies in pricing. Potassium chlorate in Chinese crackers bring down their cost by 5 and 10 times lower than Indian firecrackers.
8. India is not the only country with a dedicated firecracker festival.
L’International Des Feux Loto-Quebec or Montreal Firework Festival is an annual event held since 1985 in Canada.
Mexico has a national festival dedicated to fireworks that lasts an entire week.
Philippines has a five-day Olympian festival around the same.
Fireworks are set off on the Fourth of July American Independence Day celebrations.
The New Year eve fireworks at Sydney is a major attraction.
Japan has a rich tradition of firework festivals. Cities like Nagaoka, Kounoso and Akagawa have their own such festivals.
9. And this is their pollution levels on a normal day.
On November 4 at 12 noon IST. Colour codes of pollution level from least to most: Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple, Maroon.
In Australia and New Zealand:
In United States:
In Japan. The sea or red is China with its high level of air pollution because of factories: