October 11, 2019
Diwali aka “Festival Of Lights” is one of the most significant festivals in India. It is celebrated across the length and breadth of the nation with much fanfare and enthusiasm. Millions of crackers are burned throughout our country each year to celebrate as a ritual on this festival. The markets are flooded with different kinds of fire crackers without giving it a thought that this act is causing pollution which is extremely harmful for the environment. Air pollution levels in our country are on an all-time high during the Diwali festival. This has given rise to numerous health problems. People, who suffer from asthma and other lung problems, particularly have a difficult time during Diwali. Their problem augments during this time and it becomes hard for them to breathe. The burning of crackers also causes noise pollution which is especially a problem for the elderly people and little kids. It is also scary for animals that look for places to hide themselves as we burn crackers to celebrate Diwali. To overcome the challenge, government rolled out eco-friendly firecrackers in market.
As concerns over air-pollution loom ahead of Diwali, an emission testing facility was established at CSIR-NEERI and extensive testing was in progress for conventional and green crackers for monitoring the emissions and sound. The new firework, which covers popularly used sound-emitting crackers, flowerpots, pencils, chakkar and sparklers, based on formulations is developed by a consortium of eight laboratories under the CSIR led by Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute. The project adopted a two-pronged approach. While one stream of activity was focussed on improving the traditional crackers through reduction in the level of Barium Nitrate, which is the main villain, the second pathway aimed at replacing Barium Nitrate with a more benign Potassium Nitrate. As part of the exercise, the scientists also set up a new facility that could be used by manufacturers to characterise the raw material and analyse the compositions of the chemicals used in fireworks. About 230 firework manufacturers signed the MoU for using the formulations. Of them, 165 entered into a non-disclosure agreement. Around 530 emissions testing certificates have been issued to fireworks manufacturers for new and improved formulations that meet the mandated guidelines of green crackers.
‘Green Crackers’ refers to fireworks that produce low emissions and have less decibels promises to help reduce particulate emissions by 30% while producing the same level of light and sound effects of traditional fireworks and are available at the same cost as the traditional ones, some of them even cheaper. The new set of crackers would have a prominent green logo to differentiate them from the conventional ones. Further, it would carry QR code for monitoring. Scanning of the code would provide all information about the product including the chemicals and the process used. The firecrackers have been manufactured by licensee-manufacturers.
Eco-friendly crackers are free of harmful components, like Barium, Aluminum and Chromium that are generally used in firecrackers to get different colours. While aluminium, that is used as fuel in fireworks to give white sparkle, cause skin problems, Barium Nitrate used for green colour can lead to respiratory problems. The scientists designed three prototypes of crackers and have named as safe water releaser (SWAS), safe minimal aluminium (SAFAL) and safe thermite cracker (STAR). Each of the types has a unique property of releasing water vapour and/or air as dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions and matching performance in sound with conventional crackers. The SWAS crackers eliminates usage of Potassium nitrate and Sulphur that causes skin and eye irritation along with coughing. Meanwhile, STAR reduces sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, that cause respiratory problems, by 35-40%. SAFAL has minimal usage of aluminium with consequent significant reduction in particulate matter by 40% compared to commercial crackers. Also, functional prototypes of flower pots for substitution of Barium nitrate by low cost eco-friendly materials have been developed with significant reduction in particulate matter by 30-35%.
The industry that was on the brink of closing down has been rescued by science. Millions of homes dependent on the sale and manufacture of fireworks will also rejoice this festival. CSIR is also working towards making pollution-free electronic crackers (e-crackers) that include various products like E-Ladi and E-Anar. E-Ladi is based on high-voltage electrostatic discharge to generate light and sound effect. It is triggered by providing heat to the thermal switch which will replicate the excitement of firing the conventional cracker. The formulations have already been sent to the PESO who looks after drafting rules under the Explosives Act, 1884 and the Inflammable Substances Act, 1952. As soon as the PESO approves the prototypes, the NEERI will initiate its production.
This Amavasya (no moon night) lets harbinger new beginnings and welcome Goddess Lakshmi to pay a visit to our house and bless us with wealth, happiness and better health. We call Diwali as the festival of lights because it symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and hope over despair. Let us illuminate the nation in eco-friendly manner causing no harm to our planet earth. Casley India wishes everyone a prosperous and happy Diwali.
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