“In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery.” – David Attenborough at the COP26 Summit, Glasgow.
As many world leaders & activists spoke on the world climate crisis, India is facing an air pollution crisis of its own. As the UN recently stated in it’s a recent viral video on species extinction – Covid-19, the pandemic has given humanity an opportunity. A real fighting chance to survive.
The past two years have shown us that we are capable of change. If we collectively make an effort, we can improve the air around us that we breathe. Remember the clear skies? The social media feed filled with gorgeous photos of no smog winter-onsets?
India did that, showing that good and healthy AQI levels are achievable but dependent on our actions.
Although on 1st November 2021 the Supreme Court of India allowed for citizens to be able to burst crackers in cities, it came with two contingencies – 1. The air quality index of the area remains above the ‘poor’ category (i.e. below 100 AQI value), and 2. that only green crackers are burst. This announcement came in after the Calcutta High court had imposed a blanket ban on firecrackers in the state of West Bengal.
But if anything that the pandemic has shown us is that, we cannot take our right to breathe good quality air lightly. As we stand at and juncture today of choosing between health and the tradition of bursting crackers on Diwali as a mark of celebrations, “Green Crackers” show the middle path.
Green crackers are essentially crackers made out of alternative materials that produce fewer emissions and are eco-friendly. They pose a lesser health risk on both humans and animals. In 2018, the National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) a constituent lab of the CSIR had taken the onus to develop green crackers with reduced levels of harmful substances like barium, Aluminium and Sulphur salts. Consequently, CSIR-NEERI tested the efficacy of crackers known as Bijli crackers. They have eliminated the use of ash as a desiccant. They have developed potential sound-emitting functional prototypes that do not emit sulphur dioxide. The crackers have been named as Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL). The particulate matter will be reduced by 30-35 per cent in SWAS and 35 to 40 per cent in SAFAL and STAR.
Nowadays, companies and manufacturers can get into agreements with CSIR – NEERI to use their formulations to manufacture and sell green crackers. The famous Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu based conglomerate of fireworks manufacturers has open-heartedly partaken in this collaborative effort with over 100 different manufactures of the region have signed non-disclosure agreements for the formulation with the Council as of February 2020.
Apart from the government-based initiative, there is some private participation in the development of green crackers as well. For example, Dr.V.K. Evanjelene is one such inventor to have filed for a patent titled ECO-FRIENDLY-BIO TREATED CRACKERS. This invention is claimed to contain natural resources and to be safe for use by children, the elderly and even asthma patients. As of now, the patent application is undergoing examination post-publication.
Even the birthplace of firecrackers, China has numerous patent filings on formulations of eco-friendly crackers or green crackers. The number of patent filings in this field is evidence to the fact that the upcoming generations are ready for the change. Diwali signifies light and illumination, not only of our homes and spaces but of our minds too. Our generations to come can just hope that the choices we make today, illuminates their future.