Supreme Court is being blamed for stepping in to save us from our own mistakes. With lung cancer quadrupled in non-smokers the apex court had no other option. Debating over why something which is invented and perfected in another culture has become a tradition of our culture is useless as it’s a chicken and egg question. We don’t realize that one can keep the traditions as long as one survives. What’s the use of a tradition if there is no one left to follow it.
Many reasons are given as to why it’s not harmful to celebrate with crackers. Each and every arguments can be discussed with facts and numbers but nothing can make one understand till the ego is dressed up in faith and tradition. Traditions are man made and should be flexible. This order of honourable SC is bound to fail as it tries to limit the use rather than banning the burning of crackers. Anyway its a welcome step towards less egoistic society.
One such arguments is that its “One Day” only but that one day is enough to cause cancer to all the residents of the place even if they are not celebrating. A study of Mumbai way back in 2012 showed that residents were breathing the air which was equivalent to 113 cigarettes a day for 7 days due to continuous use of crackers the entire week. This is an example of a city which is situated near the biggest pollution sink –Ocean. One can make some intelligent guesses about other landlocked cities. Bad thing is particulate matter of less than 2.5 micron or PM2.5 is generated in large amount by crackers which can penetrate our respiratory system and also lingers in atmosphere for a very long time. So the one day causes more harm than one can imagine. Other aspect is gasses which can later cause acid rain like oxides of nitrogen and Sulphur from cracker burning . Harm is not limited to air pollution. It becomes water and soil pollution too. Huge amounts of paper, plastics and other things used to make crackers go straight to the landfills.
Another argument is only few crackers for the kids. Which brings us to the data which shows that even a single item is 2000 times more dangerous for the kid than the limits set by WHO. A study done last year to find out the pollution by a single cracker shows that most of the commonly used crackers are gravely dangerous to kids standing nearby even if its single one.
The safety limits are according to a 2016 study by Pune’s Chest Research Foundation and students from the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences of the University of Pune.
In this study aimed to measure personal exposure levels to PM2.5 during the burning of six of the most commonly used fire cracker types in India Sparklers, ground spinners, flower pots, pulpuls, garland of 1000 sounding crackers and snake tablets were burnt outdoors in an open area during the late evening hours. PM2.5 levels were measured at a distance and height from where they are normally burnt using Thermo PDR 1200, USA. Duration of exposure and peak PM2.5 levels for each of the fire crackers are given. “Children, in particular, burn the fuljhhadi, the pul-pul and the snake tablet barely a foot or two away from them. While burning these they inhale a large number of smoke particles that reach deep into their lungs(source)
With about 80% people celebrating this festival even with a few crackers per kid will result in persistent air pollution many times more than the danger levels .
Final arguments come in the form of “other cultures too have a day of fireworks”. As I have been witness to such a day twice in my life I would say that our celebration is grossly different than those days. Ours is laced with ego and theirs with happiness and pride. But how are they different in polluting less? The answer to this question is “Unity in Community”. For example 4th of July – independence day of United states of America. I once attended the famous fireworks on 4th of July. The citizens don’t believe in enjoying alone but organize community fireworks which is for all the people of a district. An open area on the outskirts of city is chosen for this and people can watch from anywhere as long as it’s a safe distance. I went to a riverfront where a small fair was organized and thousands were gathered. The cracker burning area was somewhere on the opposite bank of the river and the burning was handled by professionals with perfect timings to lit the sky with different colours and patterns. All the crackers were only the rocket variety to light the summer sky. These were a high quality ones to give least smoke and no sound crackers were used. Ambulances and fire tenders were also parked nearby for any emergency. Show ended in an hour. We enjoyed the fair and went back home feeling happy and satisfied. The nice thing about this way of celebrating is that all can enjoy even those who can’t afford and limiting pollution. Community celebrations also enjoy good quality fire crackers which are less polluting and safe to use
The parent nation of crackers ‘China ‘ too limits use of fire crackers on the Chinese new year and makes it a community affair though not for pollution but for ideological reasons.
When we are trying to copy developed nations and want to have world class smart cities why not copy their best practises too. This will only be possible once we understand that our actions can be harmful for other living beings who may not share our enthusiasm.
Some of photos of 4th of July community fireworks clicked by me