Ban on Fireworks Factories in India

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According to the reports of World Health Organization (WHO), more than 90% of the Indian population is exposed to dangerous levels of pollution and all 40 of the world’s most polluted cities are in India. Despite this, we are very ignorant about it and keep on adding pollution and health hazards for ourselves.

Exposure to polluted air directly impacts our respiratory system and causes several chronic diseases. Bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and lung cancer being some of the most common among them. Every 3rd child in India is suffering from chronic respiratory disease. This is a matter of prime concern for every Indian, whether they be parents or kids.

The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, a two-year initiative seeking to highlight the issue reports that of the 90 lakh people who died due to pollution-related diseases in 2015, more than 25 lakh deaths were recorded in India, the highest in any country. The number of people dying just because of air pollution in India is growing every year making it a nationwide challenge. India’s hills and mountains also act as basins that trap toxic air over vast swaths of the country, sometimes making the air too dangerous to breathe. Data from the 2015 Global Burden of Disease analysis suggest that pollution is contributing to premature mortality and is the cause for over 10% of all Indian deaths every year. Gradually, it's creating loss to the healthy years of each and every one of our lives.

We have many factors creating and contributing to pollution but this petition is especially for the concern to control the pollution created due to fireworks. Fireworks are generally used to celebrate special events like festivals, marriage ceremonies, opening ceremonies of events, official celebrations, etc. and thus become one of the most unusual sources of air and noise pollution. Apart from the visual feast of colorful lights in the sky, the burning of fireworks literally has nothing useful to offer.

Fireworks have variable and heterogeneous chemical compositions. Normally, fireworks contain chemicals such as Sodium Oxalate, Charcoal, Sulphur, Manganese, Aluminum, Iron, Potassium Chlorate, Potassium Perchlorate, Strontium Nitrate, Potassium Nitrates and Barium Nitrate. In order to enhance display effects, specific elements are also added into pellets of fuel, such as Strontium, Copper, Iron, Barium, etc. Ignited fireworks in the air release gaseous and ambient particulate pollutants like Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Sulphur Dioxide, suspended particles, water-soluble ions and trace metals. The burning of fireworks releases dense clouds of smoke, often degrading regional air quality to the detriment of human health and the ecological environment. As surface water can be polluted by the deposited heavy metals from fireworks, they also cause extensive damage to vegetation. Moreover, human health, especially mortality and morbidity, can also be affected by pollutants released from firework burning.

During festivals and other celebrations, the pollutants released from fireworks deteriorate air quality enormously. The comprehensive studies and data suggest that in the area of fireworks, the concentrations of particulate matter (PM) are reported to be significantly higher than the respective background values. The concentrations of Sulphates and Potassium ions reach the highest of the water-soluble ions while concentrations of gaseous pollutants like Carbon Monoxide and Sulphur Dioxide also increase significantly. The effects of particles and gaseous pollutants, including metals emitted from fireworks cause serious health problems.

According to WHO guidelines, Annual Mean for PM2.5 concentration should be less than 10 µg/m3 while 24-hr Mean for PM2.5 concentration should be less than 25 µg/m3. But what the reality of Indian cities actually is, can be estimated merely by the fact that our pollutants concentration is way greater and is always at least 10-20 times of this standard. Moreover, on festive nights and other occasions when fireworks are involved, this concentration reaches to values more than 800 µg/m3 and at some places it even crosses 1000 µg/m3 mark which is roughly around 50 times of daily standards and 100 times of average annual standards. This is enormously high and very very hazardous for the environment.

Just look at this Map showing PM2.5 concentration on Diwali Night this year.

The Government should spread awareness among citizens regarding this and also enforce strict regulations on industries creating health hazardous products and by-products. They need to make sure the industries follow high standards so as minimize the pollution and environmental risks even if they have to compromise in monetary profit. Only then Swachh Bharat Mission will hold its meaning. We sincerely appeal to the Government of India to completely ban the fireworks industries/factories and frame strict regulations for these industries to adhere high standards so as to minimize the pollution. Banning the sale of fire crackers in just one city or two for one occasion does not serve the purpose as the air is not confined to one region or place. But it should be done all over the country throughout the year. The citizens and children need to be educated about the risks and hazards involved in burning of fire-crackers and that this ban is for their own benefit. There are many people who will not stop burning crackers no matter how much awareness is provided to them. Since, the mentality of each and every person cannot be changed overnight, so it should be the duty of Government to make sure that they make them unavailable. They should frame laws such that the root cause/source of these pollutants is itself regulated and hence the production and sale does not happen. If the concern is for people employed in this field, then we suggest fireworks industries to make technical innovation so as to reduce pollutants emissions and help Government in establishing appropriate restriction levels which may balance environmental protection and festive spirit by starting to produce environment friendly and green crackers only.