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 Environmental Health & Green Living

October 2009
Light Up An Eco-Friendly Diwali
Mukesh Khosla
For sheer grandeur and spectacle, few festivals in the world can match Diwali. Markets suddenly come to life with a panoply of mithais, clothes and household utensils. Homes are lit up with twinkling earthen lamps and candles. Despite the diversity, Diwali is perhaps the only festival that is celebrated throughout India in one form or another.

But there is one thing that is common to the festival of lights all over the country—fire crackers. The rockets illuminating the skies with multicoloured bursts, the noisy sizzle of fiery chakris (ground wheels), ear-deafening 'bombs' and dazzling phooljhadis (sparklers)… But even as the fireworks get more and more innovative and power-charged with brighter lights and sounds that challenge the sound barrier, there has been a sustained campaign to shun these explosives and make Diwali eco-friendly, thus saving cities, towns and villages from an environmental nightmare that follows the festival.

Lethal Chemical Cocktail
Crackers contain a lethal cocktail of copper, potassium nitrate, carbon, lead, cadmium, zinc and sulphur, which emit noxious gases like carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, when lit. This causes immense air pollution and exposes us to a number of health hazards.

Crackers cause the following health problems in the elderly: hearing loss (from loud bombs and other crackers), high blood pressure (because of rise in stress level), respiratory complications (from noxious fumes), skin allergies (due to chemicals emitted from crackers), eye inflammation (from allround smoke).

The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the Supreme Court has set 10 P.M. as the deadline for bursting noisy crackers and limited the noise level to not more than 125 decibels. The good news is that last year the sale of toxic crackers went down by over 35 percent in big cities.

Eco-Friendly Diwali
An increasing number of educated urban people now prefer to celebrate an eco-friendly Diwali. Let us see how it can be done:
  1. Illuminate the house with earthen lamps instead of electric bulbs. This will not just make the house stand apart, but save on electricity consumption as well.
  2. If bursting crackers is part of the celebrations, make it a collective neighbourhood affair. Enjoy them for a limited period of time so that they have a minimal effect.
  3. Always buy low intensity crackers – 'bombs' that do not sound like nukes, and crackers that do not emit too many harmful chemicals with the smoke.
  4. Buy crackers that emit brilliant light but not ear-splitting noise. You can have your fun and protect the environment as well.
A number of manufacturers have begun making eco-friendly crackers that produce light in multi-hues but are low in sulphur content and do not produce health-damaging noise and smoke pollution. Many of them are also bio-degradable and when lit up they illuminate and then blossom out into colourful paper fluffers.

Crackers and Child Labour Every bomb or sparkler we light up might be snuffing out a little child's life, employed by traditional cracker manufacturing units for a pittance. Check if your firework carton announces that children are not involved in its making – there are some companies who issue such disclaimers these days. Make a promise to save yourself, those around you and the environment.

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