New Delhi: Only a few varieties of green crackers are available in Delhi markets thus far, according to a report in India Today. In 2018, the Supreme Court had banned the use of polluting firecrackers and allowed the sale of low-pollution crackers in a bid to control air pollution, particularly in north India.
The CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute was tasked with the job of developing ‘green crackers’. But the process has been slow and most varieties of crackers are yet to clear all licensing requirements, according to the Times of India.
This year only flowerpots, catherine wheels and sparklers will be licensed, ready and available in the markets, according to a report in the English daily. The sky-illuminating varieties of crackers are not yet available.
The new ‘green crackers’ are not as polluting as conventional crackers and contain atleast 30% less particulate matter such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. They also replace barium nitrate – a heavy pollutant and a key component of traditional crackers – with potassium nitrate in a bid to reduce the levels of pollution.
A quick response (QR) code on the packaging of crackers will help consumers identify green crackers, according to Harsh Vardhan, Union minister for science and technology. Scanning the code will show the composition of the fire cracker in question. The packaging will also come with a green logo and a certificate number.
Curiously, however, there is no effort to curb the noise pollution caused by crackers. On the other hand, NEERI has listed ‘matching performance in sound with commercial crackers’ as one of the features of the ‘green crackers’.
In addition to air pollution, noise pollution too is a major problem in our cities. A worldwide hearing index ranked Delhi as the second noisiest city in the world in 2017.
Noise pollution can have adverse health impacts and has been linked to anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and heart disease. It has also been found to impact cognitive performance among children.
Given the shortage of green crackers, a market for traditional fire crackers continues to exist. Recently, 700 kg of banned fire crackers were seized from just one shop in Delhi. In Kolkata, 400 kg of polluting fire crackers were seized.
Air pollution in most of north India has already spiked, but is marginally better than this time last year aided by steady winds and delays in the harvest of wheat, which has led to a marginal decline in farm fires. But, as The Wire has reported, farm fires could peak in the last week of October and early November. This, coupled with the air pollution caused by firecrackers on Diwali, could push up pollution levels dramatically early next week.