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‘Green cracker’ formula close, but petitioner raises red flags

While banning the use of conventional fire crackers during Diwali last October because they contributed to noise and air pollution, particularly in parts of north India including the National Capital Region (NCR), the court permitted the use of “green crackers” in NCR.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2019 07:31 IST
Bhadra Singh
Bhadra Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Green cracker,India news,firework
A shopkeeper arranges locally manufactured green fire-crackers to sell for Diwali festival.(PTI file photo)

Months after the Supreme Court said only “green firecrackers” can be used in parts of the country during Diwali and other festivities, an expert body on Tuesday said for the first time that such firecrackers could be produced by reducing certain harmful chemicals.

The expert panel, comprising members of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), told a bench led by justice AK SIkri on Tuesday about the trial production of crackers with less barium nitrate and potassium nitrate in Tamil Nadu’s Sivakasi, the country’s biggest firework manufacturing hub.

While banning the use of conventional fire crackers during Diwali last October because they contributed to noise and air pollution, particularly in parts of north India including the National Capital Region (NCR), the court permitted the use of “green crackers” in NCR.

But vendors across NCR said at the time that they did not know what “green crackers” were since no such products were in existence.

A report by a research group Urban Emissions said that in 2018, as much as 5 million kilogrammes of firecrackers were burnt in the region.

This was despite the Supreme Court virtually banning all conventional firecrackers (the only kind being produced at the time) and that led to an emission of 150,000 kilogrammes of PM2.5, which lingered on in the atmosphere as a thick, choking haze.

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioner, told the top court that the new formulation includes barium nitrate and potassium nitrate, and that the government should review the new formulation since it had said that barium nitrate cannot be used in firecrackers. He added that the two chemicals cannot be added to the “green” formulation.

The expert committee conducted the trials in Sivakasi following last year’s court order to work out a new formula for “green crackers” that didn’t contain toxic chemicals. According to the committee, the reduced quantity of conventional formulations such as barium nitrate and potassium nitrate could reduce PM2.5 emissions significantly. The court on the last date of hearing on February 20 rebuked the authorities for not notifying the standards for green crackers in line with its order banning polluting fireworks and promoting the use of environment-friendly ones. It directed Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to fix the norms soon, rejecting a request for three more months to carry out the task. The minutes of a meeting of the expert committee handed over to the bench on Tuesday said new formulations with additives provided by NEERI-CSIR had been prepared and fireworks were developed and tested for the efficiency of green or improved crackers.

The bench told PESO counsel to file a proper affidavit with details of the formulations and asked the petitioners’ lawyer to file a response to the expert body’s suggestion before the next date of hearing, which is March 12.

The petitioners in the case are three minors who had moved the top court seeking a ban on the use of fireworks. Justice Sikri said the report was based on the finding of technical experts and cannot be brushed away. The court also asked for the Centre’s response to the report.

Earlier senior advocates CS Vaidyanathan and Rajiv Datta, appearing for cracker manufacturers, pleaded that the court pass some interim orders for the resumption of production of crackers. About 800,000 families depend for their livelihood ion the hundreds of cracker manufacturing units in Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country, they said.

The petition was filed in September 2015 on behalf of three infants — two six-month olds and a 14-month old. Their fathers represented the petitioners, expressing concern over the health of the children.

First Published: Mar 06, 2019 07:29 IST