|Every Diwali, Delhi has a blast. The foul air does choke thousands of its residents and the steady barrage of firecrackers shatters their nerves. But you cannot have Diwali without firecrackers, can you? Well, according to health experts, if the city is to be saved from an annual environmental and health hazard, Delhi can and it should.|
|Poison in the air|
|A study by NGO Toxics Link points out that during Diwali, the air pollution levels rise by six to 10 times and the noise pollution levels go much above the tolerable limit. The finding corresponds with last year's air and noise pollution data on Diwali collected by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). |
"The problem with firecrackers is that they are a source of constant noise, loud enough to be detrimental to human health. They also emit toxic gases and choke the city's air to perilous levels," says Gurnam Singh, senior environmental engineer at the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The DPCC carries out large-scale monitoring of the noise levels on Diwali from as many as 30 sites. "Last year, the noise levels during Diwali by far exceeded the permissible limit, which is a serious health hazard," says SS Ghonkrokta, member secretary, DPCC.
|A safe firecracker? It does not exist|
|But all firecrackers cannot be dangerous, right? Wrong. "There is nothing like a safe firecracker available in the market," says Ravi Aggarwal, Director, Toxics Link. According to the national standard laid out by the CPCB, noise generated by any firecracker must not exceed 125 decibel (db) when measured from a distance of four metres. "Most of the firecrackers that you use do not adhere to that standard," says Aggarwal.|
Last year, the CPCB bought crackers from Delhi's markets and tested them for noise at the National Physical Laboratory. After testing 20 renowned brands of firecrackers, the study remarked: "The measured noise levels exceeds the specified limits for majority of the firecrackers tested in this exercise."
The laws are sensitive to the risks of Diwali fun. A Supreme Court directive has banned bursting crackers between 10 pm and 6 am. According to the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, bursting crackers within a 100- metre radius of schools, hospitals, courts and religious institutions is a punishable offence. Unfortunately, when it's Diwali, the laws go up in smoke.
|Mathew Cherian, chief executive of Helpage India, an NGO that deals with the well-being of senior citizens says, "On Diwali, we receive incessant calls from people asking for tips on how to survive the atrocities of firecrackers. Many say that there is too much noise and have trouble sleeping at night. There are the others, too, whose ailments deteriorate due to the explosive noise."|
Long after the din has subsided, the health scars remain. Says Ravi Aggarwal: "The worst affected during this festival are children, pregnant women and patients of respiratory problems. Crackers cause throat and chest congestion, and are likely to aggravate problems for those already suffering from coughs, colds and allergies."
It is not that Delhi is completely insensitive to concerns of environment and health. Five years ago, the department of Environment initiated a campaign called 'Say No to Crackers'. According to DPCC figures, the campaign did yield some result, as within couple of years, there was a marginal reduction is the air and noise pollution levels at various locations on Diwali. "There was also a decline in the sale of firecrackers in the city by 20 to 30 per cent," admits the study by Toxics Link. "Everyone knows that firecrackers are bad for environment. Now, only a strong campaign against their use in Diwali can elicit a change," says Ghonkrokta.
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