Mumbai: Did you know the rocket that lights up the dark moonless sky of Diwali with vibrant colours also emits toxic particles like barium nitrate that lead to severe respiratory issues? But what if there was a way in which a firework would go off without releasing any harmful elements and instead sprinkled water to suppress the pollutants from contaminating the air we breathe? ‘Green Crackers’ – as explained by the Supreme Court in its guidelines for this Diwali refers to fireworks that produce low emissions and have less decibels. Now scientists at Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) not only environment friendly but 15-20 per cent cheaper than the conventional ones.
First time in India, an emission testing facility has been established at CSIR-NEERI and extensive testing is in progress for conventional and green crackers for monitoring the emissions and sound. CSIR scientists have developed Less Polluting Firecrackers which are not only environment friendly but 15-20 % cheaper than the conventional ones, said Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Forest and Climate Change told NDTV.
The scientists started working on eco-friendly crackers ten months ago after Dr Vardhan had directed CSIR to come up with solutions for air pollution during Diwali by making non-polluting firecrackers. However, the crackers developed by the scientists at the government-funded institute, will not be available this Diwali.
The eco-friendly crackers will not be available for this Diwali. But once granted licence by Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), factories like those in Sivakashi will begin manufacturing and these will be available for use on all occasions including weddings throughout the year. Once safety check is done by the PESO, the manufacturers can go ahead with the production of green crackers, the minister said.
The crackers, he said, can be manufactured by the existing cracker factories, part of a Rs 6000-crore industry that employs five lakh workers.
They will be able to manufacture them at the same facilities without disturbing anything, this is happy news, the minister added. The scientists had been working on these crackers since January. The cost of development was around Rs. 65 lakh, the minister said.
What Are Eco-Friendly Crackers?
Describing the elements of crackers, Dr Sadhya Rayalu, a senior scientist at CSIR’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) says,
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.
Scientists from CSIR-NEERI and Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI), Pilani have prepared a few chemical formulations to make eco-friendly crackers. The scientists have 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 sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, that cause respiratory problems, by 35-40 per cent. SAFAL has minimal usage of aluminium with consequent significant reduction in particulate matter by 40 per cent 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 per cent.
These functional prototypes have been successfully demonstrated in Sivakasi to leading manufacturers.
The CSIR is also working towards making pollution-free electronic crackers (e-crackers) that include various products like E-Ladi and E-Anar. At present CSIR-CEERI is ready with the laboratory level prototype of E-Ladi. The cracker 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 scientists have successfully tested flower pots (a famous type of cracker). The test was conducted on those flower pots in which the barium nitrate was replaced with a less polluting element.
The formulations have already been sent to the PESO. PESO 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.
There were widespread reports and observations of rising levels of air pollution across the country due to firecrackers/fireworks, especially during the festival time of Diwali last year. Even a city like Chennai, where the problem of air pollution is less, the pollutant levels increased – PM10 levels at Sowcarpet in north Chennai for instance touched 777, compared to 180 in 2016 – four times the permissible level. The effects of Diwali were also seen in Mumbai as the Air Quality Index (AQI) was ‘hazardous’ at 410, and PM 2.5 at as high as 535. The safe limits according to World Health Organisation for AQI is below 50 and PM 2.5 is 60. In Delhi, the AQI was reported at ‘severe’ and ‘hazardous’ levels in many parts of the city.
On October 23, the Supreme Court not only officially banned firecrackers across Delhi-NCR areas, but also set stringent conditions. While the timing for bursting firecrackers has been limited only to two hours (8 pm to 10 pm). It has also banned sale of crackers online commerce websites.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.