Quick Take

‘Green crackers’ — there aren’t too many of them

| Updated on October 25, 2019

Only a small proportion of the crackers that will hit the market this year will be in line with the new norms

Can fire crackers ever be green? Isn’t the term green crackers an oxymoron? These questions matter little in India, where tradition jostles for space with the environment. When the debilitating air pollution in the National Capital Region called for restriction in bursting crackers, the idea of celebrating Diwali with just light and not sound was simply too much to bear. The compromise was the idea of green crackers.

The responsibility to define what a green cracker is and arrive at its formulation fell on the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute. (CSIR-NEERI). It was finally defined as one that will reduce emission by 30 per cent and limit sound to 125 decibels (at a distance of five metres). While the sound level is lower than the 160 decibels that conventional crackers make, it is still much higher than 90 decibels, which is considered the standard. The reduced emission was to be achieved either through a new formulation or by improving the existing formulation. These crackers will not contain chemicals such as lithium, arsenic, lead or mercury. The Supreme Court had also banned barium nitrate, an important raw material. The CSIR-NEERI chose to use potassium nitrate and zeolite instead.

The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) was given the job of setting the guidelines for manufacturing these green — or rather, ‘relatively greener’ — crackers and giving the license to firework manufacturers to produce them. The new crackers were to be distinguished from conventional ones through a green label and a QR Code.

The delay in arriving at the formulation and releasing the guidelines meant that PESO could award the license to just 28 manufacturers, as against the many thousands who feed the market. Thus, only a small proportion of the crackers that will hit the market this year will be in line with the new norms. Even those will not sport the green label or the QR code, as the industry received the go-ahead for it very late. Thus, this Diwali could be as polluting as the previous one. As regards to a ‘green Diwali’, it will remain a dream as long as tradition trumps the environment.

Published on October 25, 2019

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