Despite abundant evidence that the tradition of bursting firecrackers on Diwali is certainly not ancient and has been around for only 500 years, most Indians still associate crackers with Diwali. Each year, just before Diwali, the authorities issue warning about the health hazard of bursting crackers, which mostly fall on deaf years. This year too, despite all the awareness campaigns, it seems Diwali will be full of chemicals and noise pollution.
Unhealthy festivitiesAdded to the pollution that the crackers will set in is the fact that Diwali usually comes around at the start of winter. However this year, the northwest monsoon is still gaining momentum in the city. With so much pollution already in the air, experts are of the opinion that crackers will only make things worse for people.
“Every year, we see an increase in the number of patients who complaint of shortness of breath and lung infection,” shares Dr Ramana Prasad V. V., a senior pulmonologist at KIMS, adding, “Apart from the asthmatic patients and those suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), we now are seeing two more chronic diseases, which are diagnosed rampantly-interstitial lung disease (ILD) and post-TB bronchiectasis. During Diwali these patients suffer uneasiness and many come in with acute injury to the lungs, transient wheezing, cough and running nose.”
Beasts in terrorIf crackers are hazardous for human beings, they affect animals even worse. Well-known veterinarian, Kadambari Venkatraman,explains, “Bursting crackers causes fear, confusion, anxiety and panic in the animals. Animals have a very acute sense of hearing and the cracker bursting sounds are unbearable to them. And given that people insensitively burst crackers days before and after Diwali, it’s just a bad prospect for the four legged beings.”
And worse off in that category are the strays. Priyanka Samyuktha, an animal rescue expert from the city, adds, “Generally, we get around two-three rescue calls a day, but during Diwali it is 30-40 calls per day. Despite all the awareness campaigns, kids still tie crackers to the tail of a dog and burst it. Then there are those who set off rocket crackers near trees, destroying nests and killing the birds. Rescuing strays is difficult to begin with as they are usually scared of humans, but on days like Diwali with all the crackers going off, their panic causes them to get run over by vehicles.”
Vedam, a city-based musicianof the band “The Crazy Train Project” had stopped bursting crackers before he became a pet-owner after he noticed how many street animals went berserk on the streets at the noise of the loud cracker. “To make sure my pet is fine I keep her off the noise with her throughout, unable to leave the house. As a society, we must think of these things while celebrating any festival,” he says.
Rules galore with nothing to showIncidentally, readers might remember that last October, the Supreme Court had banned the sale, use and manufacture of crackers that weren’t ‘green’. For the uninitiated, green crackers are not loud and are supposedly approved by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to be free of mercury, arsenic and barium.
However, there are not many dealers of green crackers in Hyderabad, leaving many with no choice but to go for the regular crackers. Vikram Singh, an engineering professional from the city, who wanted to buy the green crackers this year, shares, “To me, bursting crackers is an important part of Diwali. But keeping in mind the rising pollution levels, we wanted to opt for the green crackers talked about in the news since last Diwali because of their environment-friendliness.”
Lighting the wayArtist Shravanti Julluri, who has been vocal about this issue in the past, also adds, “Diwali is a beautiful festival celebrating the victory of light over darkness. What’s crackers got to do with it? My family and I are against crackers. So, on Diwali, after the puja at home and lighting diyas, we head out for the roads, armed with biscuits and a small medical kit to help animals in distress.”