States like Andhra and Karnataka have allowed the bursting of green crackers. Breadcrumb: Deepavali

Silhouettes of people lighting firecrackers on DiwaliImage for representation. PTI photo
news Environment Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 13:15

In recent years, air quality and pollution during the festive season has become cause for concern during the festive season at the end of the year. The National Green Tribunal has ordered a ban on the sale and use of crackers in the National Capital Region (NCR) unil November 30 and has also directed cities and towns whose air quality levels in November 2019 to also adhere to the ban. Many state governments this year including Rajasthan and Odisha have banned bursting firecrackers altogether, keeping in mind environmental impact as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, while those like Karnataka and Andhra have allowed green crackers to be burst.

The idea of green crackers first came about around two years ago, when the Union government revealed the creation of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI). According to the Council, these are firecrackers made with a reduced shell size, and produce 30% to 35% less emissions compared to normal firecrackers. The green crackers also reportedly emit 125 decibels of sound, compared to 160 decibels emitted by non-green variants.

The green crackers are also supposed to have formulations that substitute some of the raw materials to reduce PM 2.5 particles, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions as well. CSIR also says that when burst, the firecrackers’ chemical formulation is such that it produces water molecules, thereby absorbing dust. These don’t contain chemicals like lithium, barium, lead, and arsenic. There are three types of green firecrackers:  Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL) crackers.

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Companies and manufacturers can get into an agreement to use CSIR-NEERI’s formulation to make green crackers. This is a list of companies that have signed non-disclosure agreements for the formulation with the Council as of February 2020. Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) is the one that gives the licence after emission tests.

Apart from a ‘green fireworks’ logo, QR codes on the green crackers’ packets can help people scan and identify them.

However, environmentalists are less convinced about the ability of green crackers to reduce pollution. G Sundarrajan told Deccan Herald that reducing PM 2.5 particulate matter and 30% will not change things significantly. He questioned why firecrackers are being allowed to be burst in the first place, knowing that they cause air pollution.

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