Vehicles appear to cause more pollution as compared to firecrackers: SC

The Supreme Court has observed that while people seemed to be ‘running after’ firecracker industries, automobiles were perhaps a ‘bigger’ contributor to pollution

The Supreme Court, on March 12, 2019, asked the centre whether there was any comparative study on pollution caused by vehicles and firecrackers. While expressing serious concern over loss of jobs of people involved in the manufacture and sale of firecrackers, a bench of justices SA Bobde and SA Nazeer said, that it did not wish to generate unemployment. “Is there any comparative study on what proportion of pollution is caused by firecrackers and what proportion is caused by automobiles? It seems you are running after firecrackers, but the bigger pollution contributor is perhaps vehicles,” the bench told additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni, who was appearing for the centre.

The top court said, “You must tell us some way of preventing unemployment also. We cannot have people unemployed and hungry. There are areas where firecrackers can be used. We cannot give them (those who have lost jobs) money. We cannot support their families. Unemployment is there,” the bench said. The bench also raised a question as to how manufacture of firecrackers could be stopped, if the trade was legal and people had the licence to carry out the business. “Nobody has tested this in relation to Article 19 (which says all citizens shall have the right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business). If the trade is legal and you have the licence for this, then, how can you stop this? How can you leave people unemployed?” the bench observed.

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The court was hearing a plea which has sought a complete ban on use of firecrackers across the country, on the ground that it gives rise to pollution. During the hearing, the ASG told the bench that the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and other expert agencies were experimenting and they have come up with a composition for ‘green crackers’. Regarding the use of barium nitrate, which was earlier banned by the apex court, Nadkarni said, “Barium was banned in firecrackers by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Supreme Court also banned it. It was used only for testing purpose, to check pollution from crackers.”

Advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioner who has raised the issue of air and noise pollution from firecrackers, said around 2.5% of annual pollution in the Delhi-National Capital Region, was due to use of crackers for a few days during the festive season. Shankaranarayanan also said there was no direction from the apex court to stop manufacturing firecrackers. The bench, which posted the matter for further hearing on April 3, 2019, told the ASG that he would have to make submissions in the case region-wise, as there were areas where crackers could be used.


Improved formulation for manufacturing ‘green crackers’ finalised, PESO informs SC

The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation has informed the SC that it has finalised ‘improved formulations’ for making green firecrackers that would reduce the emission of PM 2.5 by 25-30 per cent

March 6, 2019: Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) told the Supreme Court, on March 5, 2019 that it has finalised ‘improved formulations’ for making green firecrackers and product approvals will be given to manufacturers by March 21, 2019. The apex court was informed that joint work was undertaken by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and other fireworks manufacturers, related to formulation and production of green firecrackers. Trial of some samples was also conducted, PESO said, adding that the development would reduce the emission of pollutants PM 2.5 at least by 25-30 per cent.

As per the CSIR-NEERI minutes of the meeting placed before a bench of justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer, the authority would proceed with product approval documents of makers of fireworks, by March 7, 2019. “It is envisaged that product approval for improved formulation by PESO shall be given by March 21, 2019,” it said, adding, “It is envisaged that product approval for new formulations shall be given by PESO by April 30, 2019.” “It is envisaged that bulk production of fireworks (new formulations) shall be initiated by May 10, 2019,” it said.

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Advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan, appearing for the petitioner who has raised the issue of air and noise pollution from firecrackers, told the top court that as per the minutes of the meeting, barium nitrate and potassium nitrate chemicals have been used in the new formulation. “The government of India has not been heard on this. The government of India had said that barium nitrate cannot be used in crackers,” he said. The court asked the centre to file its reply on whether it approves the composition for green crackers and posted the matter for hearing on March 12, 2019. The bench also observed that once the new formulations are developed by expert agencies like NEERI and PESO, there should not be any problem in manufacture of green crackers.

During the hearing, the bench was told that conventional formulations with barium nitrate and potassium nitrate as oxidisers, along with additives provided by CSIR-NEERI were prepared and fireworks were developed and tested for performance efficiency. The minutes of meeting said that new formulations were also prepared and tested for performance efficiency. It said that samples shall be assessed comparatively for emissions from conventional and reduced emissions crackers. It further said testing of light and sound emitting fireworks were demonstrated successfully in presence of PESO officers and fireworks manufacturers and nearly 200 memorandum of understanding (MoUs) have been signed with manufacturers.

“After the joint work in various fireworks manufacturing factories situated in an around Sivakasi and after observing materials, analysis/assessment of the manufacturing process and testing performance efficiency, it appears that the above mentioned manufacturing shall reduce the emission of pollutants PM2.5 at least by 25-30 per cent (improved and green fireworks/green firecrackers) and it will be a win-win situation in the interest of all stake holders in the public interest,” it said. It said many unregulated and distributed manufacturers do not adhere to quality checks and therefore quality suffers leading to more pollution. “It is desirable that only PESO should be the authorised authority for any manufacturing of any size. NEERI-led system should be used for the testing of quality of raw material for all and mechanism of bar code or QR code shall be used for all products to avoid any duplicates of Indian and foreign origin,” it said.


Scientists produce ‘environment friendly’ crackers to check pollution

In a development that could be a great breakthrough for the ongoing efforts to reduce the major pollution caused by fire crackers, scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have developed ‘environment friendly’ firecrackers which produce 30-35 per cent less particulate matter

October 30, 2018: Scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have developed ‘environment friendly’ firecrackers which produce 30-35 per cent less particulate matter, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan shared. These crackers, however, are unlikely to be produced this Diwali, he said in response to a question. They have been named as safe water releaser (SWAS), safe minimal aluminium (SAFAL) and safe thermite cracker (STAR), Vardhan said in a press conference. They have a unique property of releasing water vapour or air as dust suppressants and diluent for gaseous emissions, and they match in sound with conventional firecrackers, the minister said.

SWAS crackers eliminate the use of potassium nitrate (KNO3) and sulphur with a consequent reduction in particulate matter by 30-35 per cent. They match the intensity of sound of commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 decibels. STAR eliminates the usage of potassium nitrate and sulphur with a consequent reduction in particulate matter by 35-40 per cent. It matches the sound intensity of commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 decibels. SAFAL on the other hand, has minimal usage of aluminium (only in flash powder for initiation) with a consequent significant reduction in particulate matter of 35-40 per cent compared to the commercial crackers.

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The minister highlighted that the Indian fireworks industry has an annual turnover of over Rs 6000 crores and provides employment opportunities to over 5 lakh families directly or indirectly. He said this endeavour of the CSIR is aimed at addressing pollution concerns and at the same time protecting the livelihoods of those involved in this trade. Vardhan said firecracker manufactures took a keen interest in the entire process with the laboratories and the new crackers would not be require changes in their manufacturing facilities. “For the the 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,” he said.

This facility uses sophisticated instruments for the measurement and sampling when firecrackers are used, he added. Vardhan said it was the responsibility of the firework manufactures to get a license to produce these firecrackers. Every Diwali, there is an increase in the pollution level and firecrackers are a major contributor.

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