Make Diwali an eco-friendly festival

Around this time last year, three infants hit the headlines by moving the Supreme Court seeking a ban on crackers during festivals, particularly on Dasara and Deepawali. A petition filed by Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari, both six-months old, and 14-month-0ld Zoya Rao Bhasin had sought the apex court’s intervention to stop sound and air pollution during the two important festivals in the Hindu calendar.

The petition had said, in part, “Our lungs have not yet fully developed and we cannot take further pollution through bursting of crackers.” What the infants or their environment-conscious fathers had done was more than what environmentalists could not do for decades. That was a bold attempt to stir the conscience of revelers through legal means, stressing that the health of the future generations is at stake if merry-makers continue to blast away festival nights for pomp and gaiety.

A few years ago, curbs were sought on crackers’ noise levels as a result of which sound levels of high-decibel ‘bombs’ had been restricted. Still, ear-splitting fireworks find their way into the market during Diwali time.

While the Festival of Lights was originally intended to light cotton wicks dipped in oil-filled earthen lamps to symbolically dispel ignorance and lead us towards enlightenment, the festival has degenerated into a grand show of one’s money power with firecrackers.

Since the health issues raised by the infants, not much has changed. The only silver lining is the demand for Chinese firecrackers is reported to have fallen, thanks to extensive social media campaign not to buy Chinese crackers which, in recent years, have sent Indian products, manufactured mainly in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, out of market. The price difference has obviously made Chinese goods attractive. With ‘Make in India’ campaign message spreading fast among what’sApp groups, it is possible that more and more families opt for national products even if they are a bit pricey.

Whatever revelers buy to celebrate the joyous occasion, they should keep in mind the impact of chemical smoke on the environment and deafening sounds on the health of people, particularly infants and the aged. Animals and birds would be affected more than human beings as they get disoriented.

Hyderabad City Police Commissioner M Mahendar Reddy has already issued orders banning bursting of fireworks/crackers on public roads and in public places during Deepavali from 6 am on October 29 to 6pm on November 1. Citing a Supreme Court order, he banned bursting of high sounding fireworks during the festival days.

But how many people will follow the police order/request? Since most of the celebrations are intrinsic to Hindu festivals, any curbs on them, however imperative they are, will invite public wrath. More importantly, over the years, the festivities have become a part of socio-cultural milieu.

While legal and police curbs on frenzied festive spirit is welcome, what’s more important is people should give a thought to the issues raised by the infants: How best we can contribute to make the country a livable place for the sake of future generations. We can always celebrate festivals without polluting the environs. What is needed is a little forethought and concern for fellow citizens and respect for the Nature.

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