Students at Hindu College listen during a workshop on awareness of air pollution organised by New Delhi Nature Society on Friday.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)
Students at Hindu College listen during a workshop on awareness of air pollution organised by New Delhi Nature Society on Friday.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

This Delhi man is meeting students to make Diwali about lights, not patakhas

Verhaen Khanna, along with some volunteers, is going to schools and colleges to explain why this festive season should be celebrated without fireworks
Hindustan Times | By Ritam Halder, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON OCT 16, 2017 05:07 PM IST

After the Supreme Court banned selling of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR till November 1 and did not mention anything regarding bursting them, one Delhi man is trying his best to make sure schoolchildren of the city are making “informed decisions” and not bursting crackers this Diwali.

Verhaen Khanna, founder of the New Delhi Nature Society, along with some volunteers are going to schools and colleges across the city to talk about why this festive season should be celebrated without fireworks.

“Since the SC lifted the ban on sale of fireworks on September 12, allowing only 50 lakh kg to be burnt in the city, we decided to try and reduce that number to zero, just by talking to people around the city. The new October 9 verdict on the ban sale of fireworks is a welcome move. Unfortunately, there is no ban on burning them, so we hope that more people can understand the logic behind celebrating this festival without causing harm to innocent people and animals,” Khanna said.

The New Delhi Nature Society team has already conducted workshops at The Indian School (Josip Broz Tito Marg), The Foundation School (Josip Broz Tito Marg), Raja Ram Mohan Roy School (Hauz Rani), DAV Police Public School (Gurgaon), Tagore International School (Vasant Vihar), GD Goenka Public School (Vasant Kunj) and Army Public School (Dhaula Kuan), among others.

The sessions are half-an-hour each and consists of a breathing exercise, talks on origin of Diwali, exciting and creative ways to celebrate the festival responsibly, how origin of fireworks is in China, introduction of fireworks in India, toxic chemical and metallic ingredients of crackers and other topics related to air pollution in the city.

Finally the students and teachers sign a pledge, which is a promise to themselves and to each other, to not cause air pollution, Khanna said.

On Friday, Khanna and his team visited Hindu College to interact with students there. Shreya Garg, a third year Zoology (Hons) student, was happy with the “crisp and meaningful” workshop.

“Delhi, the capital city of India, is also known as the pollution capital of the world. Since fire crackers are detrimental to the environment and pets, we pledged not to burn any this Diwali. It also made me aware of how vulnerable our lungs are,” she said.

The Supreme Court reinstated on Monday its ban on the sale of firecrackers in and around New Delhi ahead of Diwali, in a pre-emptive step to stop a toxic haze from engulfing the region like last year.

The ban runs until November 1 but there is no prohibition on lighting celebratory firecrackers or their sale outside the National Capital Region, which includes the Capital and satellite cities Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida and Ghaziabad. People who have already bought fireworks can use them, but new ones cannot be sold.

The court said the impact of the ban on the region’s air quality would have to be examined after Diwali. It also suspended all temporary trade licences issued by police for selling fireworks.

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