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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Less than 1% of Diwali firecrackers selling in Mumbai are green

mumbai Updated: Oct 18, 2019 00:28 IST

With less than 10 days to go to Diwali, the Mumbai and Thane district Fireworks Dealers’ Welfare Association said that less than 1% of the firecrackers sold in Mumbai and Thane this year are ‘green’.

Green crackers have 30% lower emissions of toxic gases than traditional ones and they do not contain barium nitrate, a metal oxide that increases both air and noise pollution.

On October 5, the Centre announced the use of eco-friendly crackers across India, developed by the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), based on a 2018 Supreme Court (SC) order, banning the manufacture of polluting firecrackers.

“Research for these crackers has recently been completed. The production is in its nascent stages,” said Minesh Mehta, secretary of the fireworks dealers’ association.

“It will take at least a year for all shops to be loaded with green crackers,” Mehta said.

So far, NEERI has developed different variants of two types of crackers – flower pots and sparklers – with new formulations for their chemical components.

The Hindustan Times surveyed eight shops in Kurla, two in Chembur, six at Mohammed Ali Road, and five at Crawford Market.

Of these, only N Devidas and Co. under Essabhai Fireworks Pvt Ltd. had three sets of plain sparklers and two bundles of flower pots that had the “green fireworks” certification on them. “We received only a few consignments earlier this week, which were less,” said a spokesperson from Essabhai Fireworks Pvt Ltd. Others said they weren’t keen on selling green crackers. “Shops in Mumbai suburbs or Thane have not got any green crackers yet. They are cheaper and weaker than traditional ones. Their sale will lead to losses,” said Raju Ghone, firecracker dealer from Kurla.

The coming years may see more green firecrackers in the market. Production is likely to increase at Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, which accounts for more than 90% of the country’s firecracker production, said Ganesan Panjurajan, president, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA). “NEERI approved 348 units at Sivakasi to make green crackers. The process is underway and distribution will take time,” he said.

Though there is a ban on use of firecrackers that is not certified as green, enforcement of the rules is lax, with government agencies shrugging off responsibility. The central government body, the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) said they were not an enforcement authority. “Our role is limited to issuing approvals for green crackers. It is up to NEERI and the Union environment ministry to check production and proper implementation of the SC order,” said MK Jhala, joint chief controller of explosives, PESO, which has not banned traditional crackers yet, freely available across all shops in Mumbai.

Dr Sadhana Rayalu, chief scientist, NEERI, shared information on green crackers, but did not comment on their availability.

“We are a scientific organisation and market or implementation driven issues does not pertain to our domain,” she said.

Meanwhile, the annual firecracker testing exercise organised by the NGO Awaaz Foundation and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) will take place on Friday. “Available firecrackers will be assessed for high air or noise pollution, and accordingly PESO will be told about those that need to be banned,” said Pravin Joshi, regional officer (Mumbai), MPCB. “Green crackers are a good initiative, but will not result in reduced air or noise pollution and consequent health effects unless they are commonly available in the market,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.