Fireworks manufacturers in Sivakasi are staring at yet another gloomy Diwali, as production has dropped nearly 50 per cent due to the Supreme Court’s ban on use of barium in crackers. The Covid pandemic dealt a huge blow to cracker sales, but the demand this year will be high, and prices higher by 40-50 per cent.

The apex court had banned the use of barium in fireworks in 2018, and it was reconfirmed in 2021, reducing the workforce at the fireworks industry to 50 per cent.

“This year, the sound of wallahs [the 1,000 or 10,000 joint crackers] is gone. The ban on usage of barium nitrate has squeezed production. Using alternative chemicals like strontium nitrate has increased the production cost by 50-60 per cent, as it has to be imported from Spain and China. There is great demand, and consumers will end up paying 50-60 per cent more for crackers,” said Raja Singh Chelladurai, MD, Jumbo Fireworks.

A Murali, Vice-President, Sivakasi Fireworks Manufacturers Association, said the ban on barium was imposed without any scientific study conducted on the possible hazardous impact on the environment . “We are being targeted because of the hue and cry of the environmentalists in the name of pollution, although other sectors use barium in various production operations. I should say that we are the weaker opponent and are being made scapegoats,” he said.

“After the ban, my factories are running at 50 per cent capacity and reduced production at 50 per cent to 60 per cent. We used to employ around 500 workers. However, after the ban, it has dropped to 200 people,” he said.

Sivakasi Sparklers Manufacturers Association’s Vijaykanth said that for Delhi or any other place where the ambient air quality index is above 200, the two-hour stipulation for bursting crackers will help achieve the 30 per cent reduction in emission from fireworks. For the rest of the country, the two-hour restriction has to be relaxed.

S Ravi of Friends of Fireworks said Diwali is just a month away, but manufacturers are tense as sales have not picked up yet. The industry has an estimated business volume of ₹6,000 crore even a few years ago. It has been drastically reduced to ₹3,500 crore due to the ban. He predicted that there will be a shortage of firecrackers this year due to the impact of low production.