Diwali or Deepavali, also known as the festival of lights, is a major festival in India and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervour. Celebrated on the 14th day of the Kartik month as per the Hindu Lunar calendar, it is believed that on this day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. The people of Ayodhya celebrated the joyous occasion of the return of their favourite Lord by cleaning their house, distributing sweets and lighting the houses with earthen diyas. Thus the name Deepavali, where Deep means earthen lamps and avali means a string. Over the years, firecrackers were also included in the celebrations.
Unfortunately, in recent times Diwali has lost its original connotation, and now the celebration is mostly about burning firecrackers. Firecrackers of different varieties are easily available in the market, and the people of India spend thousands of rupees over the same without realising that this is affecting the environment as well as the health of individuals. Here are a few ill effects of firecrackers which one should know about:
Firecrackers have the following constituents as per Bombay National History Society Laboratory, Mumbai:
• Highly toxic heavy metals like cadmium, lead, copper, manganese, zinc, sodium, magnesium and potassium.
• Few of the aforesaid metals are in the form of nitrites and nitrates.
• Sulphates and phosphates
For the layman, the following are the ways in which the aforesaid chemicals harm the environment:
• Barium, Cadmium, Sodium, Mercury, Nitrate and Nitrite are major air pollutants.
• The smoke that emanates from crackers pollutes the air as well as the environment because of the chemicals used in manufacturing them.
• The smoke contains tiny metallic particles and produces smog.
• The RSPM, Respirable Suspended Particulate Material level goes up during Diwali making the air unhealthy to breath.
• The Carbon Dioxide emitted while burning firecrackers is a major cause for global warming.
• Diwali also sees a great amount of non-biodegradable dry waste in the form of papers, plastics and firework covers causing soil pollution.
• Recent studies have shown that the chemical particles also contaminate the water bodies. They penetrate the soil and even result in the contamination of the ground water making it unfit for consumption.
Noise is unwanted sound and measured in decibels (dB). It is indeed a dangerous pollutant which is hazardous to the environment. Firecrackers produce sounds which are much higher in decibels tolerable for the human ear. During Diwali the decibel levels go up to 125 dB which is equivalent to the noise produced by a military jet at the time of take off. The noise level allowed by the Government is only 55 dB during daytime and 45dB during night, but these limits are crossed by a great extent causing environmental hazards.
Diwali, a joyous occasion, has now become a source for ailments because of the following reasons:
• The suspended particles in the air because of burning firecrackers cause allergic conditions to skin, eye, throat and nose.
• Diseases like Bronchitis and Asthma get aggravated due to the suspended particles, Sulphur Dioxide, and Nitrogen Dioxide. In recent times, people suffering from these Chronic Pulmonary diseases have started taking refuge in hilly places or even hospitals.
• Children from the age of 6 to 16 are more susceptible to breathing problems because of the smoke.
• The heavy metals used in the firecrackers will leave a residue in the lungs of people causing permanent damage.
• The Sulphur Dioxide emanated by the crackers also affects plant life and their productivity.
• The Carbon Monoxide produced in the process of burning crackers hampers the Hemoglobin content in the blood causing it to malfunction in the process of transporting oxygen in the blood. Thus various parts of the body suffer from oxygen deprivation.
• Noise pollution results in hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart attack and sleep disorder.
• The chemicals used in the firecrackers also indirectly result in stomach disorders, for if the hands are not washed properly before intake of food it may cause food poisoning.
• Unsafe practices also result in many burn injuries which could have been avoided.
• The firecrackers are normally handmade and the people making them are exposed to harmful chemicals which result in irreversible health damage. Most of the factories employ young children making it even more appalling.
• Last but not the least, the effect of firecrackers on birds and animals is cataclysmic. Animals like dogs and cats have a more sensitive sense of hearing than humans. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a non-profit organisation, awareness should be created for the masses.
Keeping in mind the aforesaid negative impacts, the Honourable Supreme Court of India has issued certain guidelines:
• Manufacture, sale and use of only green crackers.
• Bursting of fire crackers only between 8.00 PM to 10.00 PM.
• No online purchasing of crackers.
An Eco-friendly Diwali
Let us re-establish the essence of Diwali by being sensitive to the environment. Diwali can be celebrated with earthen lamps, sweets and togetherness. It is time to go green this Diwali. Pollution-free crackers are also available, though very expensive. This year let us burn these crackers in small quantities just for the spirit of Diwali. Communities can also opt for laser shows on Diwali evening. Instead of spending on firecrackers, the same money could be used to make some capital investment at home, or buy a book and new clothes. This Diwali let us spread the joy and celebrations to the under privileged by donating text books, new clothes and sponsoring a lavish meal.
Here is wishing everyone a Happy and a Green Diwali.
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