This year’s Diwali could be celebrated with little guilt about harming the environment, as (relatively) green firecrackers are ready to make a big appearance this season. Additionally, you can use your smartphone to track and verify if your green crackers are truly ‘green’.
The Central government earlier this month announced the firecrackers this year would come with QR codes to check for counterfeit and fake firecrackers disguised under environment-friendly products.
“Over 70 per cent of the market will see green crackers as the majority of the firecrackers manufacturing companies have agreed to comply with the green norms,” said P Ganeshan, president of the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA).
Ganeshan explained that all the firecrackers coming out of these factories could be traced back to its origin.
Verify with QR Code
“To guarantee the firecrackers complied with the norms, a series of technology-assisted steps have been introduced,” he added. “The first point to verify is to know that every packet of firecracker will come with a NEERI logo printed on it,” Ganeshan said.
The box of crackers will also have a QR code to scan with the camera lens from a smartphone. “Scanning the code will open a link which will direct one to the details of the product,” Ganeshan explained. The customers will get details about the licences, approves, a certificate from CSIR-NEERI, and the Supreme Court order.
“If the link does not show the details or the QR code fails, the firecracker is fake,” Ganeshan said.
As per the norms, the government had suggested CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) formulate firecrackers that cause less pollution after the Supreme Court banned sales in 2017.
The association has collaborated with the Nagpur-based NEERI institute to manufacture these less polluting crackers.
What makes them ‘green’?
“These firecrackers are 30 per cent less polluting compared to ordinary ones. The chemical Barium Nitrate is responsible for heavy smoke and emissions. The smoke mainly comes from emissions of Sulphur dioxide (So2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), that gets replaced by an additive,” Ganeshan said.
Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) will reduce by 30-35 per cent, the president of TANFAMA assured us.
Ganeshan said that around 600 major factories associated with the manufacturing of firecrackers in India have signed up for the cause. “It is the first time that such agreement has taken place towards a commitment of environment-friendly festive celebrations,” he added.
Not entirely green?
However, reducing the particulate matter and smoke may not be enough to reduce the overall pollution levels, cautions Polash Mukherjee, Lead Air Quality and Climate Resilience, NRDC’s India Program.
“Reducing the use of Barium Nitrate in the firecrackers will help reduce NOx and other particulate matter pollution for sure. But the heavy metals in the firecrackers also need to be checked,” Polash said.
The expert said the colours emitted from bursting the crackers mainly come from the burning of metals like copper, phosphorus and others. “The ultimate solution would be to have colourless firecrackers. But that defeats the aesthetic value of it,” he added.
Polash advises that along with a change in government policy, consumer behaviour also needs to change.
“There is an urgent need to move to community-driven celebrations. Rather than every household buying firecrackers, a residential society should do it in a manner to reduce the quantum of bursting firecrackers,” he added.
The expert said that actions from both sides would help reduce the damage to the environment.
Sadhana Rayalu, chief scientist at CSIR-NEERI, assured that all the firecrackers innovated by them have no heavy metals in them. “We have mostly worked on ground-based firecrackers, which do not demand the use of heavy metals. That is more likely in aerial fireworks,” she said.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has also initiated a helpline to address queries related to QR codes, formulations and emissions certificates. The helpline numbers are +919049598046 and +918617770964. The queries can also be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)