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How Green Crackers Are Actually Green?

At Diwali, the lantern festival celebrating light, many Indians are prepared to use eco-friendly fireworks, like green crackers with less pollution.

Indian regulators banned the manufacture and sale of crackers with toxic elements like barium nitrate years ago, favoring the use of green alternatives instead.

This environmentally-friendly cracker is also more costly than traditional crackers.

“This year we have only 70% of stock as compared to last year because there was a move away from big brands in favour of more sustainable products,” explained Praveen Kumar T, founding member of Cracker Mela. Big brands are transitioning to more environmentally friendly crackers which has resulted in less cracking being supplied to stores such as ours. While we anticipate that this will be short-term, we’ve been hit hard by the limited supply and escalating costs.”

In September this year, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee announced a complete ban on bursting any and all fireworks for eleven months. This is being legally contested by green-pyro manufacturers in Delhi.

In Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan it’s legal to use green crackers while in West Bengal, they’re only allowed during festivities involving the goddess Durga. In Punjab they’re legal but only if one applies for a license and blasts them for a total of two hours max.

However, the current chemicals found in green crackers have made them an oxymoron for India’s ₹3,000 crore cracker market.

Are crackers that are green in actually green?

A need for green crackers in India

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that green crackers are a good way to control pollution. The Supreme Court approved them and CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute certified them.

Last year, during the pandemic, the Supreme Court upheld its ban on crackers for cities with a poor AQI. The air in these areas was more harmful for older citizens and those who had just recovered from Covid-19. This is especially true for the national capital, where paddy burning from Punjab has made it harder to breathe.

The article attributes the statement, “People should avoid fireworks during Diwali, especially those who have asthma, citizens above 60 years of age, small kids or who have recovered from severe symptoms of Covid-19.” said Dr Mukul Kumar Singh in an interview with TOI.

A recent report by the Center for Science and Environment found that Delhi-NCR is the most polluted region in India.

During Diwali, many people use eco-friendly alternatives like green crackers. But some people claim that they’re fakes and don’t really exist.

Are green crackers actually green?

The green cracker is a healthier, chemical-free alternative to regular crackers. It also provides benefits like reduced particulates and 30% less emissions.

There are only 30 government registered manufacturers who can sell “green crackers” in India. The total weight of firecrackers seized ahead of Diwali in Delhi was 2,311 kg. None of them were found to be made with environmentally-friendly material.

Some people think that the only way to tell a knockoff cracker is authentic is to check for CSIR-NEERI stamps or QR codes. There are other ways as well, such as looking at the packaging and seeing if it lists chemical ingredients.

To learn more about these “green” crackers, the Awaaz Foundation for Environment and Development in Maharashtra collaborated with Mumbai’s pollution control board to test their noise emission levels.

Sumaira Abdulali, the delegate of Awaaz Foundation, reports in a statement that only few brands have a QR code with CSIR NEERI stamp of green crackers, but the QR codes are not registered to NEERI and they are false. Even banned chemical “barium nitrate” is openly listed on boxes of some packets claimed to be green crackers.

In a letter dated December 2020, Abdulali wrote to former Maharashtra environment minister Aaditya Thakre, “We found that even 12 varieties of green firecrackers contain toxic chemicals including barium nitrate, other nitrates and sulfates.”

There are other green cracker alternatives, like Bombay Greens and Plantable Patakha. However, these cost over ₹500. So even if your used crackers could be made into plants, the price would make it not worth-while.

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